Apple Supplier Uses High-Tech Method to Catch Underage Workers


One of Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) suppliers has recently started using a high-tech method to combat the problem of underage workers. Pegatron, a major manufacturer of Apple’s iPhone 5C, started using facial recognition technology earlier this year as part of its efforts to screen out underage workers, reports The Wall Street Journal.

According to the Journal, the system operates by matching employees’ faces with their government-issued IDs. Pegatron also verifies the authenticity of the ID cards with the police. The preliminary ID verification process and the facial recognition system should theoretically prevent underage workers from gaining access to the factory by using another employee’s ID card.

As noted by the publication, the legal working age in China is 16, although Apple’s Supplier Code of Conduct states, “the minimum age for employment or work shall be 15 years of age.” However, a recent employee death revealed that even Pegatron’s stringent system can be overcome if a worker tries hard enough.

Fifteen-year-old Shi Zhaokun was able to circumvent Pegatron’s age-verification system by obtaining an ID card that included his picture along with an older person’s identifying information, The Wall Street Journal reports. Nonprofit organization China Labor Watch reported Shi’s true age after he died of pneumonia on October 9, despite passing a pre-employment physical examination on September 4.

Reuters reports that Apple sent an independent team of medical experts to Shanghai last month to investigate Shi’s death and the deaths of several other workers at one of Pegatron’s facilities. Pegatron also conducted its own internal investigation. Both investigations concluded that all of the recent deaths were caused by various medical conditions that were unrelated to the employees’ work at the factory.

Apple joined the Fair Labor Association last year, after several well-publicized suicides at factories run by Apple supplier Foxconn in 2010. As an FLA-affiliated participating company, Apple is subject to regular compliance monitoring by the FLA to ensure that Apple’s suppliers are meeting the organization’s labor codes. The FLA’s latest inspection of several of Foxconn’s facilities found that the company was complying with 99 percent of organization’s labor codes, including the elimination of its internship programs that were using underage workers.

Follow Nathanael on Twitter @ArnoldEtan_WSCS

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