In the past couple of months, the world has given Apple’s employment and manufacturing practices a much-needed proctology exam.This exercise has been beneficial for all involved:
- Apple, for example, has now taken a closer look at its supply-chain and manufacturing operations and committed itself to providing more oversight of its partners.
- Apple’s customers have now had to come to terms (or not) with the fact that their beloved Apple products are made, in part, by teenagers earning a dollar or two an hour, and
- Americans in general have had to face the reality that Apple and other electronics manufacturers are smart to make their products in China because:Chinese workers are willing to work harder, longer, and for much less than American workers The whole electronics manufacturing ecosystem has moved to Asia because the United States did not do enough to keep it here, and this ecosystem is critical to companies that want to be as nimble as Apple (“Steve Jobs Freaked Out A Month Before The First iPhone Was Released And Demanded A New Screen”) It is now much easier to do business in China and other countries where regulatory and environmental hurdles do not bury any big project in years- and jillions of dollars worth of red tape.
- Chinese workers are willing to work harder, longer, and for much less than American workers
- The whole electronics manufacturing ecosystem has moved to Asia because the United States did not do enough to keep it here, and this ecosystem is critical to companies that want to be as nimble as Apple (“Steve Jobs Freaked Out A Month Before The First iPhone Was Released And Demanded A New Screen”)
- It is now much easier to do business in China and other countries where regulatory and environmental hurdles do not bury any big project in years- and jillions of dollars worth of red tape.
And, as Apple itself pointed out in one of the New York Times stories that helped thrust this issue into the limelight, Apple is a global company that sells products in hundreds of countries.
Apple has no duty, moral or legal, to build its products here. And it’s not Apple’s job to fix America’s problems.
But, still, the controversy created a publicity problem for Apple, and it responded aggressively.
First, it paid for an inspection of Foxconn, its major Chinese manufacturing partner. Then CEO Tim Cook spoke frequently–and quite persuasively–about the issue. Then Apple presumably allowed ABC News to visit Foxconn (it seems highly unlikely that Foxconn would have done this without Apple’s approval).
And then, it seemed, everyone was ready to move on.
But Apple is still defending itself.
On Apple.com, the company has now posted a series of infographics ballyhooing the number of jobs it has created in the United States.
The number appears to be a big number–514,000 jobs.
But then the details reveal that that number is pretty much just a spin job.
Apple employs about 47,000 people in the United States. 27,000 of these people work in retail stores, where most of them make about $12 an hour (I personally think Apple, along with Walmart, Starbucks, McDonalds, and other unfathomably rich companies should pay their store employees more, but that’s a different issue). Another ~8,000 work in Apple Care call centres. That leaves about 12,000 corporate executives.
The rest of the half-million jobs Apple is referring to are in the broader ecosystem.
The number, for example, includes UPS and Fedex employees who deliver iPhones. It includes Corning employees who make glass for iPhones (folks who would presumably be making glass for Samsung, if they weren’t making it for Apple). And it includes everyone even tangentially related to the “app economy.” And so on.
And if Apple is going to take credit for all those jobs, it might as well include the employees of restaurants where Apple employees eat, the employees of car-dealerships where Apple employees get their rides, the employees of grocery stores and clothes stores where Apple employees shop, the employees of lawn-mowing companies and cleaning services and wireless companies that count Apple employees as customers, the employees of schools where the kids of Apple employees get educated, and so on.
And Apple should also probably give some credit to the real engine behind creating and supporting all those jobs–the American customers who buy Apple products. Because, without those customers, Apple wouldn’t be able to create or support a single job, no matter how cool its products are. (See: “Finally, A Rich American Destroys The Myth That Rich People Create Jobs“)
Apple is a great company, and it contributes a lot to the U.S. economy. It is also a global company, and, in today’s economy, globalization is a fact of life. So Apple doesn’t need to pretend that it creates a lot more American jobs that it does.