Video: Who Pays the Price? The Human Cost of Electronics
The description to this short documentary reads:
This short documentary reveals the hazards of the electronics industry in China profiling workers poisoned by chemicals and their struggle for compensation.
Thousands of young people in China enter export factories to make the West’s favorite electronic gadgets, only to find they have contracted occupational diseases or worse, leukemia, by the age of 25.
A horrible and very vivid reminder why the design, production, use and regulation of digital technology should be more concerned about questions of right and wrong.
Knowing that companies like Apple could easily improve the lives of people like the one shown in this video makes the situation ethically absolutely appalling. As I have written in my PhD proposal, breaking down Apple’s iPhone 5, for example, reveals that out of the $849 retail prize, only $238 account for materials and manufacturing. Out of these $238, only $8 account for the manufacturing cost itself – that is worker wages etc. In other words, with a 72% profit margin per iPhone, Apple could easily double, triple, even quadruple manufacturing expenditure (i.e. increasing worker wages), only marginally decreasing individual profits to a ‘measly’ 71%, 70% or 69% respectively. Of course there are many other things that could and should be done other than just raising worker wages. But it clearly is the easiest and fastest things a company like Apple could do if they wanted to. (We have also written about this on examined-life: More on the Apple sweatshops, Should consumers boycott Apple products?)
And that is why I own and use a Fairphone. It is a proof of concept that high quality digital technology doesn’t have to come at such grave human cost. Yes, it is not perfect but as of today, it is the best compromise between ethical conduct and digital connectivity available: