Apple’s latest “blowout” quarterly report, as well as an examination of its executive pay levels, underscores how easy it would be for the company to improve the working conditions of the Foxconn workers in China assembling Apple products. As Ross Eisenbrey and I summarized recently: “Apple workers in China endure extraordinarily long hours (in violation of Chinese law and Apple’s code of conduct), meager pay, and coercive discipline.”
Apple could insist that Foxconn pay these workers more and treat them fairly, and could easily pay for any additional costs. (The workers in question are employed in factory lines dedicated only to producing Apple products.) To offset these costs, Apple could modestly raise the price of its products to be sure, but it could also readily offset these costs through some combination of tiny reductions in profits, small trims in its cash balance, or adjustments in its pay to executives.
- The total compensation of the investigated Chinese workers making Apple products amounts to just 3 percent of Apple’s profits. In its most recent quarter Apple’s after-tax profits equaled $11.6 billion. By comparison, over an overlapping three-month period, the total compensation of the 288,800 Foxconn workers making Apple products equaled an estimated $350 million – or 3.0 percent of its after-tax profits. (I calculated this figure based on the average monthly pay of all Foxconn factory employees, including supervisors, found by the Fair Labor Association; the number of workers are those working in the three factories investigated.) This finding parallels a finding in a recent blog by Ross: labor costs at Foxconn are a “miniscule part of the iPhone’s costs.”
- The total annualized compensation of the investigated Chinese workers making Apple products amounts to just 1 percent of Apple’s cash/securities surplus. At the end of the most recent quarter, Apple had $10.1 billion in cash and cash equivalents, $18.4 billion in short-term marketable securities, and $81.6 billion in long-term marketable securities, for a total balance of $110 billion. By comparison, the total annualized compensation of the 288,000 Foxconn workers making Apple products is about $1.4 billion – or 1.3 percent of Apple’s cash/securities surplus.
- In 2011 and 2012, the top nine members of Apple’s executive team had total compensation equal to about 90,000 Chinese factory workers making its products. My just-released analysis found that in 2011, Apple’s nine-person executive leadership team received total compensation of $441 million. This was equivalent to the compensation of 95,000 factory workers at Foxconn assembling Apple products (making an estimated $4,622 per year).
In 2012, the executive team is on track to receive compensation of at least $412 million. This conservative estimate is equivalent to the compensation of 89,000 of the Chinese factory workers making Apple products.