Apple presides over a global technology empire, but the economic landscapes it shapes around the world are strangely uneven. With its hundreds of thousands of employees worldwide, Apple’s manufacturing partner Foxconn works very differently in two hemispheres of the Global South.
The think tank Economic Policy Institute recently hosted a forum to discuss a tale of two Foxconns: between Foxconn and Apple workers in China and Brazil, the contrast is as crisp as a touchscreen icon.
According to EPI, Chinese workers at Foxconn in Shenzhen earn less than US $290 per month, while in Brazil the basic monthly wage is about twice that. A maximum work week for Chinese workers, in theory (though employers regularly violate labor laws), can be up to 60 to 70 hours per week, with five days vacation after a year. Work weeks for Brazilian employees are capped at 44 hours, with 30 days of paid vacation, plus other perks like a profit-sharing deal for workers.
Clearly, some of the differences can be attributed to regional economic disparities, but Brazil and China are often seen as twin examples of “emerging economies.” So why would employees of the same company fare so differently?
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