Pretty much what it says. Here is a link where you can read about, and buy, a phone app called Phone Story, which is a stylized version of how cell phones get made and the “collateral damage” of such production.
Many young workers at Apple’s supplier factory in Shenzhen, China committed suicide. The cause? Working as long as 36 hours nonstop without overtime pay, earning poverty wages, facing humiliation by company managers and being denied independent union representation.
The solution? Foxconn installed anti-suicide nets on its buildings. The problem was seen as one which involved stopping the suicides after the jump, not at the root of the problem — the whole system itself.
Shenzhen is in a “special economic zone” in which the normal protections of labor law do not readily apply. These zones tend to be among the most impoverished areas in a nation whose poverty level is already staggering. The promise of finding work is often met, but the work is low wage, intensive, and precarious. With little or no protection, workers can be fired for no reason, unions are not allowed to form, and only the lowest paying jobs are available for the indigenous population. All the money extracted from the labor of the workers stays with the company.
When you buy a gadget, you aren’t only buying the sleek image the companies advertising team worked so hard to create, you are also buying the whole line of production used to create it.