Apple's supply chain is once again in the crosshairs, after a South Korean newspaper today reported that Chinese factory workers are paid substantially less than their counterparts elsewhere around the world.
According to the Korea Daily, citing sources, factory workers in China who are producing iPads collectively earn about $8 per unit among them, or about 1.6 percent of the cheapest iPad's selling price.
Korean factory workers, on the other hand, share about $34 per unit among them, giving them 6.8 percent of the sales price, according to the report.
Over the last several months, complaints about working conditions in factories across Asia that produce Apple products have grown louder. Last week, the criticism hit a tipping point when watchdog groups SumOfUs and Change.org protested outside Apple stores, calling on the iPhone maker to improve supplier working conditions. The groups also delivered petitions signed by more than 250,000 people decrying Apple's relationship with Foxconn.
Those groups were responding to an interview CNN conducted recently with an 18-year-old employee at Foxconn, a key Apple supplier. The young woman, called "Miss Chen" to protect her identity, described forced overtime and the inability to receive benefits and sick days. She added that her work--affixing stickers onto iPad screens--makes her feel dehumanized.
"It's so boring, I can't bear it anymore," she told CNN. "Everyday is like: I get off from work and I go to bed. I get up in the morning, and I go to work. It is my daily routine and I almost feel like an animal."
To address critics' concerns, Apple earlier this week announced that it has asked the Fair Labor Association (FLA) to audit Foxconn facilities in Shenzhen and Chengdu, China. After those audits are complete, the FLA will move to other Apple production partners. Apple says that by the time the FLA is done, facilities that produce more than 90 percent of its products will have been inspected.
How this latest news on worker pay might play into those audits remains to be seen. Regardless, Apple has made it clear that it doesn't own the companies accused of poor working conditions, and Apple asserts that it's far ahead of the rest of the industry at making things better for workers around the world.
"No one in our industry is doing more to improve working conditions than Apple," Apple CEO Tim Cook said yesterday during an investor conference. Cook went on to say that child labor is "abhorrent" and is extremely rare in the Apple supply chain.
Apple did not immediately respond to CNET's request for comment on the Korea Daily report.