Exploiting Labor in a Digital Economy
The base of a capitalist society is an encrusted monopoly of the capitalist class over the means of production with the majority of the population left with nothing to offer but its self labor power. Owing to this uneven relationship to appropriate the society’s surplus in the form of financial wealth accumulation that has a rate of return typically growing faster than the income of society as a whole; those in the dominant class tends to become richer both absolutely and relatively, gaining from the upward flow of value that somewhat seldom gurgle down.
Of the 30 million populations, Malaysia’s Labor Force Participation Rate is 68% in November of 2015. The wages in the manufacturing sector averaged RM$2741 (US$685) per month between 2012 and 2016, . There are over 1.3 million civil servants – highest ratio to population in Asia Pacific – whose salary and remuneration were paid amounting to RM$41 billion in 2011 (more than 35% of operating expenditure yearly) or where 1.5 taxpayer supported one civil servant who are aligned as a kleptocratic class to the ruling capitalist regime.
In the country, there are 3 million of documented migrant workers (of whom 40% had no formal education) constituting 30% of the local work force or 1% of international immigrants world-wide, and a similar number of undocumented workers composed of migrants from Indonesia, Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and the Philippines, the majority of whom earning basic wages of RM$900 (US$225) per month .
The nine richest men in Malaysia have a net worth of US$42 billion (Forbes 2016).
II] The Labor Exploitation Framework
Labor exploitation does not just occur in one particular sector of production or within the ethnocratic kleptocracy and plutocratic national economy but also the resultant of total global accumulation process, too.
If it is human labor that creates value to a product or service then surplus labor shall create the surplus value. The value and the transformation of that value, into market price is the result of social relations between labor and capital, and between different capitals. It is then this transformation from value to the market price that ensures that the capital accumulation process continues on an enlarged, and expanded, scale. This throughput circulation of capital thus involves the transformation of value and surplus value into profit. In a sense, the transfer of value from the developing countries (the South) to the developed countries (the North) is the result of low prices paid to the goods and services produced in the South to be consumed by the North.
In Marxist terms, value is the sum of direct and indirect socially necessary labor time that has gone into producing a commodity. Though the market price of a commodity often diverges from its value, it is still ultimately being determined by value.
The formation of the market prices for a product is through the production chain illustrated as a “smiling curve” for “value-added” in the diagram from the 10th. Malaysia Plan . The “value-added”, that is, the new added income measured in conventional price terms, is high in the first part of the production chain with highly paid research and development processes, the designing – and financial capital management – located in the North. The curve falls in the middle, with the attendant low-wage labor in the South producing the physical product.
The price rises again towards the right end of the curve with branding, marketing, and sales taking place in the North. And, these operational processes continue with upward thrust in capital accumulation as production sustains, symbolized by the pair of uplifting arrow signs.
Therefore, if one were to draw the curve for the Marxist concept of value added in the operational management and production chain, it would display the opposite of the smiling curve into the “sour smiley”. The value-price transformation occurs because the price of production of a commodity is equal to the price of the material inputs plus the remuneration of those who were given with a claim on a part of the value of said production. This part is shared accruing to (low) wages and the part accruing to all others (higher) claims like profit, rent, interest, transferred pricing, commissions and under-counter kickbacks.
In neoclassical economics, the final determinant is “the market” subjective to the needs and preferences of the consumer that determine the prices of the final goods which in turn determine wages costs and profit level. In short, prices serve in measuring “consumers’ demand” in the market arose through the exchange between competitive trading forces.
By contrast, Marxist value theory situates the determination of prices on the production side of the national economy. The cost of production or cost price is the transition from value to market price. This cost price of a product shall consist of the costs of capital like raw materials and machines (besides fixed plants) and “variable” capital that is wages.
Besides the stated cost price, the market price must cover the average rate of profit. This is because commodities need to be produced and reproduced continuously, and if capitalists do not recover the cost of production plus a profit of the product to be sold, (re)production ends.
Therefore, in Marxist economics market price reflects the cost of (re)production.
What is the cost of production, that is, the inputs required producing a commodity? The commonality to all these inputs to a commodity is the human labor. All market prices in a capitalist economy are in the final analysis tied to the instance on the consumption of labor or what Marx called “living labor” or labor-power. Its price – the wage – is determined not only by reproduction costs in getting food, housing, and education but also by political class struggles reflecting the power struggles between classes and groups in society.
It is their transformation into market prices that value and surplus value are distributed among capitalists within and between sectors. The uneven distribution of value occurs because of high organic value in the composition of capital, rent extracted through monopolistic extraction. It occurs between capital and labor through the respective shares – profits and wages – each receives as a result of prevailing class relations.
This situation also occurs between nations because of differences between the national market price of labor capacity (the wage) and the market price of those goods which labor consumes.
III] The Digital Economy
The 21st. millennium has witnessed a big increase, with the relocation of industry in the South (factory-produced and information-serviced), in the transferring of value to the North. Comparing the data for the world’s 2,000 largest multinational corporations – in the years 2004 and 2014 – generated revenues accounted for more than 50% of worldwide Gross Domestic Product; the share of FIRE (finance, insurance, real estate) in total assets was about 74% in 2014, contributing 33.5% in total profits. However, if one is to combine FIRE profits with those shares in the information industries and the telephony mobility industries – which have elements of financialization and digitized capitalism contents – then we have 70% which is absolutely higher than the 18.6% share of total profits in the manufacturing sector .
The electronics and electrical (E&E) industry is the leading manufacturing sector in Malaysia, contributing 33.4% of country’s export and 23.7% in employment in 2014 with assembling plants spread over 200 industrial estates and 18 free trade zones . It is projected to expected to grow to RM$90 billion in Gross National Income and offering prospective 679,000 jobs by 2020 .
The E&E industry in Malaysia is deepening and strengthening the three major ecosystems of semiconductors, solar and LED technologies, (see Appendix A). In Figure 2, it shows the number of projected investments approved in the E&E industry by sub-sector, 2013, to indicate the scope, and scale, of manufacturing in the Malaysian digital economy.
Figure 2: Projected Investments approved in the E&E Industry
Malaysia Industrial Development Authority, Invest Byte No:4 2014, April 2014.
Applied onto the Malaysian economy landscape, during the 1970s’ industrialization program whereas its capital accumulation and consequential repatriation of surplus value with unequal exchange of products embodying different quantities of value through repatriated profits and transfer-pricing by transnational corporations, however, by the 1980 period onwards, there is an emergence of financialization capitalism, with the intense FIRE burning into the ICT segmented furnaces, taken a stronghold in the country domination, and thus deepening the overall capital accumulation process (see “Financialization Capitalism and neo-Imperialism”, monsoonsstorms.wordpress.com), besides widening the exploiting of labor in the electronic and electrical industrial digital economy.
The world renowned electronics multinational companies such as IBM, General Electric, Hewlett Packard, Sharp Electronics, Siemens, and NEC Infrontia have established their operational headquarters (OHQ) in Malaysia. Indeed, more than 70 percent of US investment in Malaysia goes to the electronics and electrical goods sectors. However, if including foreign-direct investment (FDI) in the services and oil and gas sectors, they would make total U.S. FDI significantly higher – perhaps more than $30 billion, (Department of State, 2014 Investment Climate Statement, June 2014). For the European Union, electronics and electrical products constitute more than 60 percent of Malaysian exports to these countries.
Concurrent with this physical digital superstructure is the bridging of digital labor exploitation as exemplified since the introduction of the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) in 1996, creating more than 128,000 employment in MSC Malaysia-status companies and 65,000 employees in the Shared Services and Outsourcing (SSO) sector .
The furtherance in exploiting labor is accentuated through the key telecommunications network represented by technologies like a fibre-optic backbone with up to 10 gigabits per second capacity and high-speed switching, and multiple protocols including Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM), the MSC was supported by intellectual property protection with cyber laws like The Digital Signature Act 1997 that allows for the development of, amongst others, e-commerce by providing an avenue for secure on-line transactions through the use of digital signatures, The Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 that provides a regulatory framework to cater for the convergence of the telecommunications, broadcasting and computing industries, The Copyright (Amendment) Act 1997 to make unauthorized transmission of copyright works over the Internet an infringement of copyright, The Computer Crimes Act 1997 deals with unauthorized access to computer material, unauthorized access with intent to commit other offences and unauthorized modification of computer contents.
Sustaining these exploitative exploits are the blue collars and gray collars of the digital economy where the labor bottom-dredging would scavenge upon the country more than 500 universities and colleges to leverage the technical backbone besides those 50,000 college students studying abroad towards a neo-liberalism capitalism platform.
What was the consequential politico-economic resultant is that the North-based transnational corporations and financial institutions have established, and dominated, the vast South’s economies has become socially disarticulated export dependencies . This is ardently in evidence with the promotion of the electronic and electrical industry in the 1970s that ushered the successful progress of a digital economy in the country, .
IV] The Digital Labor
Migrant worker is generally confined to lower-wage fields, and is defined as a person who is to be engaged or has been engaged in a remunerated activity in a State of which he or she is not a national. Typically, at any one time, migrant workers would constitute nearly one-third of migrant workers in the manufacturing sector, .
Under a digital economy, labor is still being exploited. Though the Minister of Human Resources and Manpower has enacted the Minimum Wages Order 2012 to promote a fair wage structure, and further, to provide a minimum acceptable standard of living which could eventually alleviate poverty, the key concerns of labor today still revolve around the restrictive framework for the exercise of freedom of association, the right to organize and bargain collectively and the right to strike, to name a few issues. Unionization remains low with less than 10% of labor that is covered by Collective Agreements. The organization of workers is tightly regulated, and the average Malaysian worker generally does not see the benefits of belonging to a trade union. Workers are constrained by non-democratic laws which allow for detention without trial, restricted freedom of speech, publication or assembly.
Even though in the Chong Wah Plastics Sdn. Bhd. & Ors v Idris Ali & Ors 2009 case, the Industrial Court stated inter alia, that ‘if the country has to employ foreign workers both the law and equity, and good conscience demand that they be given their legal rights and this includes the payment of same wages as local workers’, yet 183 Nepalese migrant workers in Malaysia had died due to illness, occupational accidents and suicide. The three-day protest by the JYC employees resulted in a partial victory for the workers with the employer finally agreeing to provide RM10,000 in compensation to the family of the death man and a pay rise for the workers from RM428 (US$106) a month to RM546 (US$135) a month.
Our argument is that the exploited labor, and the associated capital accumulation, is predicated upon the miserably low wage rates within the South’s economies imposed by their exports competitively fighting for limited shares of the largely North’s consumer markets. The labor exploitation is that, according to the International Labor Organization, the world’s 2010 three-billion workforces, about 942 million were classified as “working poor”, that is, almost one-in-three workers world-wide live on under US$2 per day, .
Secondly, there was the continuation in the extraction of natural resources and the siphoning of value that could possibly otherwise be used to construct productive forces of the national economy. In 1964, seven years after gaining independence from her colonial master, there were about forty British companies having local registrations in Malaysia, and the rubber and tin industries had accounted for 60% of the stock exchange capitalization. Extractive mineral activities, like illegal mining of bauxite for fabrication of electronic casings, are still being practiced in the state of Pahang.
Lastly, with the strong encouragement by transnational corporation and local businesses, and constant movement of workers from more depressed South’s countries in Asia into the country had meant there is no equalization of returns to labor, but the consistent exploitation of labor towards enlarging capital accumulation.
The spread of the digital economy that produces information and communication technologies (ICT) and information itself, has encouraged, and encompassed a wider spread than the mere physical production of information technologies like computers and mobile phones in various free trade zones in the country. The digital ecosystem covers the creation of digital contents like music, movies, video and graphic images of a multimedia nature. The technologies, the physical constructs or the soft elements are nowadays dialectically interconnected so that the digital economy is at once physical as well as non-physical.
Indeed, the digital economy is a re-organization of productive forces that have cut across the base-superstructure laying bare the interconnection between global supply chain systems, and in between these sub-systems that are supportive in the continuance of exploited labor, whether local nationals or migrant workers:
The production processes that are in the digital economy would involve a production stage consisting of human subjects (S) using technologies of labor (T) on objects of labor (O), creating a new product (see Figure 3). The base in this production process may have begun in the rural-agricultural-labor segment by which miners extract minerals. These minerals shall then become the objects in the next production stage when the raw materials are processed into ICT components with industrial-assembly-labor constructing finished digital media. Throughout this process chain, this human subject (S) = labor who shall manage the production, distribution, circulation, and consumption of diverse types of information.
“Digital labor,” therefore, does not only denote the production of digital content. Its wide connotative spectrum encompasses the whole mode of digital production, a network of agricultural, industrial and informational labor that enables the existence and use of digital media. The human subjects (S) involved in the digital mode of production, that is, miners, processors, assemblers, and information workers have specific stand in the dedicated relations of production. There is a relation between the rural folks (the miners) and the urban workers (industrial assemblers) as well as the final information creators (in Silicon Valley).
Today most of these digital relations of production are shaped by wage labor, slave labor, unpaid labor, precarious labor, and freelance labor, making the international division of digital labor a vast and complex network of interconnected, global processes of exploitation. These could probably range from the Congolese slave miners excavating columbite-tantalite or FELDA settlers digging for bauxite to extract minerals for use in ICT components, those super-exploited wage-workers in Foxconn factories in China, and the lowly paid software engineers in India to highly paid, highly stressed software engineers at Google and other Western corporations, precarious digital freelancers who create and disseminate culture, and e-waste workers who disassemble ICTs probably in the slums surrounding Delhi and Accra where women and children make a living dismantling motherboards with hammers and blowtorches, thus exposing themselves to toxic materials (Fuchs, op. cit.).
In short, Marx terms this whole system the productive forces as a “dialectical triangle” where human subjects have labor power that in this laboring process interacts with the means of production (object). The means of production shall consist of the object of labor (like natural resources and/or raw materials) and the instruments of labor (in the form of technologies).
In the labor process, humans transform the object of labor (nature) by making use labor power with the help of instruments of labor that can be mechanized equipments like jigs, excavators and lorries or electronic devices like soldering pens or oscilloscopes. The result is a product of labor, that is, a Hegelian subject-object or as Marx would say, a product in which labor is bound to its object in that labor is thence objectified in the product and the object is henceforth transformed into a use-value that serves human needs.
V] Exploiting Workers in a Digital Economy
On and between these production processes, however, there are many other, and various, differentiated facets in the exploitation of labor.
For example: nearly one-third of migrant workers in the Malaysian electronics industry, which produces goods for some of the world’s best-known brands, are trapped in forced labor, a form of modern-day slavery, according to a documentation by Verite.
Verité researching on the electronic industry supply chain had found that forced labor is present in a wide cross-section of household electronics brands from US, Europe, Japan, Taiwan and South Korean multinational companies that use Malaysian factories to produce exceeding 1.6 billion of sterling pounds worth of goods every year.
The researchers had interviewed more than 500 workers, and concluded that debt bondage and the illegal confiscation of passports and documents were the main drivers of this “systemic” forced labor, which traps workers in low-paid jobs in preventing them from returning home. Many of the electronics workers interviewed by Verité said they had been detained, harassed, blackmailed or threatened by immigration officials, police or the much-feared RELA – Malaysia’s voluntary citizen security corps – which is charged with rooting out illegal migrants.
It was documented that in the workplace, such digital labor often faces further exploitation and abuse. Verité investigations found that workers were forced to live in cramped and dangerous accommodation; that female workers experienced sexual abuse by their supervisors; and that migrants were forced to work excessive overtime under the threat of losing their jobs; that such labor is often saddled with large debts.
Thousands of people from Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Vietnam and other countries travel to Malaysia every year for work. According to a 2010 Amnesty International Report, many enter the digital workplace with at least US$1,000 in debt, after being charged high fees by recruitment agents.
Verité’s investigation revealed that 77% of migrant workers had to borrow money for recruitment fees. Some 95% of those interviewed said they could not leave the digital economy until the debts are paid. Their situation was made worse after a 2013 change in Malaysian law made it possible for employers to pass on the cost of a per-capita levy the government charges on the use of foreign labor to the workers themselves, thereby increasing their debt by almost another RM$400 (US$100).
Verité documentation has been supported by a US agency. The US State Department downgraded Malaysia to the lowest tier of its Trafficking in Persons Report http://www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/countries/2014/226770.htm that ranks countries on efforts to end modern-day slavery. In this report, the State Department criticized Malaysia for widespread abuse of its 6 million migrant work-forces, also evidently agreed by the Organization for European Development in its Structural Policy Country Notes: Malaysia, 2008 Report, besides the articles by Miyamoto, “The Labor Market of Malaysia : A Case Study of the Kuala Lumpur Metropolitan District”, Economic Journal of Hokkaido University, 37: 1-28 and R.A. Rahim, M. A. Ahmad Tajuddin, K.A. Bakar and M.N. Rahim, “Migrant Labour and Issues on Outsourcing System in Malaysia”.
These facts and figures are supported by the 2016 Global Slavery Index, a research report by the Walk free Foundation, whereby compiled information from 167 countries had indicated that 45 million men, women and children globally are trapped in modern slavery with two-thirds in the Asia-Pacific. Modern slavery means situations of exploitation that a person cannot leave because of threats, violence, coercion, abuse of power or deception; these people are held in debt bondage on fishing boats, against their will as domestic servants or trapped in brothels; these 124 countries have criminalised human trafficking in line with the UN Trafficking Protocol.
Under the recent signing of the Malaysia – United States Labor Consistency Plan, a bilateral instrument in accordance with Chapter 19 of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement on Forced Labor regarding the Protections against the withholding of passports, Malaysia shall, inter alia,
(a) amend the implementing regulations to the Passport Act 1966 (Act 150) to reinforce that retaining a worker’s passport by his or her employer is illegal. Such regulations shall include requiring that foreign workers are fully informed of their right to retain their own passports and informing workers that they retain the right to access their passports at any time, without delay or approval of any other individual and without consequence to their status and relationship with their employer or recruitment agency;
(b) amend the implementing regulations to Act 150 to require that private employers that utilize foreign workers in their operations (either through a direct employment relationship or through an employment agency) provide to each foreign worker a notice informing workers of their right to retain their passport and information on how to report violations of this right. Private employers with more than 10 foreign workers and recruitment agencies also shall post a notice to this effect.
Though there is no reliable recent estimate of the number of child workers (US Department of State, Country Reports on the Human Rights Practices – 1999), recent figures from the International Labor Organisation (ILO) show that globally, 1 in 6 children work, and that 218 million children aged 5 – 17 are involved in child labor worldwide with 126 million children work in hazardous conditions, and that the highest numbers of child laborers are in the Asia/Pacific region, where there are 122 million working children, though the highest proportion of child laborers is in Sub Saharan Africa, where 26% of children (49 million) are involved in work.
How are the above figures relevant in Malaysia’s context? Are there really working children in our country? A stroll around major towns will reveal a number of babies and young children who are being used to beg along five-foot pavements, pedestrian bridges and bus stops. A news report from Star Metro (24/08/2010) observed that about 20 children were foraging for junk around the landfill of Bukit Beruntung near to the Federal capital while their family members labor in electronic-making firms in some free trade zones miles away.
Indeed, the Malaysian Census Report estimated there were 40,000 child workers in 1990; past estimates had ranged from 70,000 to 200,000 . In 1995, there were 75,000 economically active children between the ages of 10-14, representing 3.16% of this age group; of these, 33,000 were girls and 42,000 were boys, . Definitely, forced child and trafficked labor in the palm oil industry that provides lubricants to the electrical and electronic firms had been identified by the World Vision Action group, and other migrant issues had also been amplified by local scholars, too (Rahim et al, op.cit).
A study had indicated the important role in the real output of the E&E sub-sector in the long run as well as short run when the former model reveals that the availability of more labor is associated with an increase in output while any real wage increase can adversely affect the real output firming Marx contention that surplus value is always expropriated in the fulfillment of capital accumulation as realistically seen in the specific E&E segment of our industrialization process, .
Under the New Economic Policy that was launched in 1970, a large numbers of women, especially Malay women, entered the workforce for the first time. Between the years of 1975 and 2000, the numbers of women in paid employment increased from 37 per cent to 44.5 per cent (Eighth Malaysian Plan, 2001-2005). The ruling regime enticed manufacturers – with cheap industrial land, tax-free incentives, corporate tax rebates and liberal profit repatriations – to employ unemployed females from the towns and recruit young Malay women from kampung (villages) to work for transnational corporations in the free trade zones (FTZ). By the late 1970s, it was estimated that about 80,000 kampong girls between the ages of 16 years and 24 years worked in these electronics factories. There was an emergence of a proletarianized Malay workforce.
As more Malays moved into the workforce numerous workers’ unions increased the numbers of Malays in the trade union movement, causing a rise in the percentage of Malay trade union members from 21 in 1960 to 50 in 1980 to over 70 by 2000. For the first time also, middle-class Malay women began to join trade unions in the white collar sectors of the workforce. These women often lobbied for women’s rights through political channels as well as contesting wages and labor conditions through the trade union. The middle-class female labor succeeded in gaining some limited results such as equal pay, maternity and retirement benefits, but unfortunately the working class women have not attained the same results.
However, the freedom for women workers to join trade unions in secondary manufacturing was often undermined by government agreements that have granted special privileges to multinational companies, especially those set-ups in the newly established export processing zones (EPZs). Women workers in these industries were denied the right to form a trade union. Furthermore, government restrictions on national union organizing, membership and strike action were introduced under the Industrial Relations Act in 1967 to widen foreign direct investment (FDI) in the newly-established export-oriented industries. As a consequence of this amended legislation, women workers in the electronic industry, especially workers in electronics factories in the EPZs did not had the opportunity to protest on labor equality nor to unionize wholly.
It must be noted that many married women work in the home so they can care for young children. They rarely have a contract with their employer and are paid on a piece rate system. Trade unionists face extreme difficulties in their struggle to represent home-based workers in major towns. As a result, the working conditions of female workers in the home-based industry are below the minimum standards in the formal sector of the industry. It was also noted that ‘sweatshop’ employers often utilize undocumented foreign workers; estimates suggest that 3 million undocumented foreign workers are active in Malaysia’s economy. Undocumented, exploited labor is usually found in garment sweatshops operating in and around the federal capital of Kuala Lumpur, around the Pudu and Loke Yew communities (read the interviews with the Secretary, Selangor Textile Trade Union by Crinis in Malaysia:Women, Labor Activism and Unions, University of Wollonggong, 2008; see also N. Yamada, “Migrant Workers as a Peripherality – Advocacy and organizaing Activities in Malaysia”, ILERA 2015 World Congress in Cape Town, South Africa, and Audrey Seah and Grace Lee, “Female Labour Force Participation, Infant Mortality and Fertility in Malaysia”, Journal of Asia Pacific Economy, Vol: 20, issue 4, 2015).
- Inconvenient Labor Policy
With the highly profitable and vested interest businesses that process incoming migrant workers a glaring question to ask is whether migrant labor policy is being driven by the profit-maximizing interests of those who pocket lucrative gains from service fees, visa processing and medical check-up charges and other migrant entry procedural fees rather than to meet the national labor market needs.
Malaysia’s policies toward migrant labor are in conflict with a national economic development initiative. The country’s latest five-year development plan, unveiled in May 2015, set a goal of reducing dependency on foreign migrant labor. It targets of reducing the share of foreigners in the workforce to 15%; presently accounting for 25-35%, a range that reflects varying estimates of the number of undocumented workers.
Yet after the 11th. Malaysia Plan presentation in the Parliament, the Minister of Home Affairs Zahid Hamidi proposed to bring in 1.5 million Bangladeshi workers over three years. The plan was widely denounced by organized labor, civil society and even employers as undermining long-term labor policy objectives and negating measures to register and formalize undocumented workers. Information on the exact number of workers to be imported and the sectors demanding such labor was however left opaque. It must be noted that there are more than 10 different ministries, and departments within these ministries, directly engaged in the approval of immigrant labor (Malaysian Economic Monitor, “Immigrant Labour”, December 19th. 2015).
Indeed, even the United Nations had expressed concern in October 2015 that thousands of North Koreans are being sent to work in other countries, including in the copper mines in Sarawak, Malaysia, in conditions that amount to forced labor to circumvent U.N. sanctions to earn foreign currency for the country, amounting to between US$1.2 billion and US$2.3 billion annually by one estimate, according to U.N. investigator, Marzuki Darusman, the special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea.
World Bank senior economist Rafael Munoz Moreno said that the one step that needed to be taken by the Malaysian government is to phase out third-party agents in bringing in the migrants. “Low-skilled immigrants fill workforce gaps, reduce production costs and expand output and exports….and as a result, unskilled employment increases and profits rise, which increases investment and the demand for higher-skilled Malaysians.” Malaysia has a total of 14.3 million local workers, according to government data; there are also – to repeat – six million migrant workers, about half of them working in the country illegally.
- Shattering the Glass Screen
Therefore, it is imperative that employer and worker organizations in the electronics industry should promote equitable treatment for all workers, regardless of their employment status, raise awareness and build capacity on fundamental principles and rights at work and to promote respect of these principles and rights throughout the supply chains, jointly explore options in addition to temporary or other forms of employment to respond to fluctuating demands, and to promote long-lasting employment relationships. The World Conference on ICT Electrical and Electronics, in June 2015 held a World Conference on ICT Electrical and Electronics in Malaysia. In addition to topics on organizing and fighting precarious work, the conference focused on how to create a safer and healthier working environment, and on forming stronger trade union networks with Chinese workers at MNCs such as Samsung and Foxconn.
Jyrki Raina, general secretary of IndustriALL, says: “Many electronics companies are purely in pursuit of profits and treat workers as a commodity or a production cost. Brutal attempts to bust unions stink of company arrogance. We must fight back by harnessing our global union power just as we did in defeating the union busting…..”
VI] Conclusion: A post-Financial Capitalism digital economy
In 1970, according to the Malaysian government, about three-quarters of the corporate sector of agriculture and mining, almost 60 per cent of corporate manufacturing and commerce, and about half of banking and insurance were still owned by foreigners. Though policies were initiated to formulate and modify the degree of foreign ownership, there was no definitive direction to completely eliminate the controlling entities, but to encourage and collude with foreign enterprises that often regarded the country as a beachhead for the global market .
Repressive successive, and continuous, regimes in comprador governance that accept, and implemented, neoliberal policies had meant that wage rises were never granted for fear of spurring workers’ and rakyat demand for greater political power. The ownership and control have not changed substantially, though through the local capitalists and intermediaries are not necessarily those of Chinese middlemen or Indian compradors nowadays, but kleptocrats that serve as the most obvious link in an exploitative economic system. Owing to the imposed ethnocentric nature of economic activities, an economic discourse has tended to deflect rakyat-rakyat attention and hostility away from those more powerful and central actors that are looting the country’s tills, (see STORM, Illicit Capital, Illegal Trade and Inequality – Kleptocracy in Malaysia, monsoonsstorms.wordpress.com).
The third issue on an oversupply of labor, and the tagged unresolved land question, was eliminated with an affirmative initiative, though ethnocratically-centred, with the introduction of the New Economic Policy and the engagement of the Federal Land Development Authority (FELDA) thus nipping the notion of an “Agrarian Question” as Marx and Lenin had propounded for the elimination of rural exploitation and dominance of a landlord class. With provision of land and ensured employment in the FELDA schemes, schools and clinics infrastructure built-in, any rural uprising was not forthcoming nor fomenting.
Aside from economic exploitation, colonial rule had also produced a highly unequal and socially distant multicultural society, whose multifaceted divisions kept the colonial rulers in supreme authority. After independence, Britain ensured that Malaysia became a staunch western ally by structuring in a capitalist system specifically helmed by western-educated elites through what appeared to be “formal” democratic institutions. In such a system, the Malaysian ruling elites have been able to “manage” the country’s democratic processes to its advantage as well as preempt or suppress serious internal challenges to its power, often in the name of national stability. As a result, an increasingly unpopular (Barisan National) National Front political coalition has remained in power in the country since 1957.
Meanwhile, Malaysia’s marginal position in the world economy, which has maintained its economic subordination to the developed countries of the west and Japan, has reproduced the internal social inequities inherited from colonial rule and channeled the largest returns of economic growths into the hands of the country’s foreign investors as well as local oligarchy-capitalists and comprador elites associated with the ruling ethnocratic-centric machinery. Over the years however, the state has lost some of its political legitimacy in the face of widening social disparities, increased ethnic polarization, and prevalent corruption. This has been made possible by extensive exposures of these issues via new social media and communications technology. Hence, informational globalization may have begun to empower Malaysians in a new struggle for political reform, thereby reconfiguring the balance of power between the state and civil society.
Capitalism is a system that is based on private ownership of the means of production; an ownership which, by definition, is that of a privileged minority. This private ownership (aside from land ownership) has taken the form of exclusive rights over important equipment associated with modern production technologies, from the first industrial revolution at the close of the eighteenth century to the present day. The majority of non-owners are thus obliged to sell their labor power: capital employs labor; labor has no free use of the means of production.
The extracted and capital accumulation by an oligopoly of trans-national corporations can be distinctly shown in Figure 4 where the exploitation of labor is highest amongst Apple and its fabrication manufacturer in Foxconn:
It is indicative too that top management from the leading electronics companies is ranked among the richest people in the world. Samsung’s chairman, Lee Kun-hee, has an estimated net worth of US$12.6 billion; Apple CEO Tim Cook took home a salary of more than US $9 million. Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman, got a pay package of US$19.6 million in 2014, and the CEO of Hon Hai Precision (Foxconn), Terry Gou, has a net fortune estimated at US$6.1 billion.
Lest we forget again, the nine richest men in Malaysia have a net worth of US$42 billion (Forbes 2016).
This stands in contrast to standard Foxconn workers in China assembling products for Apple and HP. They are paid on average US$5,000 dollar per year, which means Foxconn’s CEO is worth more money than the combined annual salary of all the company’s one million blue-collar workers, (see Appendix C “Shattering the Glass Screen” on related industrial issues regarding Foxconn operations management and Apple’s management leadership style).
List of Reference
 Department of Statistics Malaysia 2015 & 2016, Labor Force Participation Rate in Malaysia and Wages in Manufacturing in Malaysia
 National Council of Professors (MPN) Conference, “National Dilemma: Issues and Challenges of Foreign Workers in Malaysia”, December 2014; see also: “Migrant Workers in Malaysia – Issues, Concerns and Points for Action”, Fair Labor Association, 2008.
 Economic Planning Unit, Prime Minister Department, Malaysia; available here: A Summary of the 10th. Malaysia Plan, http://www.rsmi.com.my/WebLITE/Applications/productcatalog/uploaded/Docs/The%2010th%20Malaysia%20Plan%202.pdf
4] Christian Fuchs, “Digital Labor and Imperialism”, Monthly Review, Vol:67, Issue 08, January 2016, Table 1.
 N. Piper, “Migrant Labor in Southeast Asia – Country Study: Malaysia”, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore.
 Malaysian American Electronic Industry, MAEI Position on International Labor Standards and Practices, Jan 2015.
 M.Vicziany and M.Puteh, “Vision 2020, the Multimedia Supercorridor and Malaysian Universities”, Monash Asia Institute, Monash University.
 Torkil Lauesen and Zak Cope, “Imperialism and the Transformation of Values into Prices”, Monthly Review, July 1st. 2015.
.Parinduri, R. A. and S. M. Thangavelu (2011), ‘ASEAN+1 FTAs and Global Value Chains in East Asia: The Case of the Electronics Industry in Malaysia’, in Findlay, C.(ed.), ASEAN+1 FTAs and Global Value Chains in East Asia, ERIA Research Project Report 2010-29, Jakarta: ERIA. pp.185-231; see also Appendix B on a typical a choice of factory location; and The Malaysian Semiconductor Cluster in Microeconomics of Competitiveness, May 8, 2015).
 Sri Wulandari, “Malaysia’s Free Industrial Zones: Reconfiguration on the electronic production space”, Asia Monitor Resource Centre (AMRC).
 Benjamin Selwyn, “Twenty-First-Century International Economy: A Class-Relational Perspective”, European Journal of International Relations (December 3, 2014) pp 1-25.
 B. Sinniah, Working Children in the Commercial Sector in Malaysia
 International Labor Office – Bureau of Statistics, Economically Active Population 1950-2010, STAT Working Paper, ILO 1997.
 Z.Yusop, S.H. Law, N.M. Nor, “Relationships Among Output, Wages, Productivity and Employment in the Malaysian Electronic and Electrical Sub-sector”, Department of Economics, Universiti Putra Malaysia.
 Lim Mah Hui, Globalization, Export-led growth and inequality: The East Asian Story, South Centre, November 2014.
The growth of semiconductor will continue to spearhead the growth of the E&E industry in Malaysia and has benefited from the global demand in the usage of mobile devices (smartphones, tablets), storage devices (cloud computing, data centers), and optoelectronics (photonics, fibre optics, LEDs) and embedded technology integrated circuits, PCBs, LEDs.
The E&E manufacturers in the country have continued to move-up the value chain to produce higher value-added products. These include intensification of research and development efforts and outsource non-core activities domestically.
The E&E industry in Malaysia can be categorized into four sub-sectors:
- a) Consumer Electronics
This sub-sector includes the manufacture of LED television receivers, audio visual products such as blu-ray disc players/recorders, digital home theater systems, mini disc, electronics games consoles and digital cameras.
The sector is represented by many renowned Japanese and Korean companies which have contributed significantly towards the rapid growth of the sector.
The leading companies are now undertaking R&D activities in the country to support their global and Asian markets.
- b)Electronic Components
Products/activities which fall under this sub-sector include semiconductor devices, passive components, printed circuits and other components such as media, substrates and connectors.
Within the electronic components sub-sector, the semiconductor devices have been the leading contributor in the performance of exports for the E&E industry. In 2014, the electronic components sub-sector became the largest sub-sector with approved investments of RM 5.8 bil.
The presence of major (MNCs) such as Intel, AMD, Freescale Semiconductor, ASE, Infineon, STMicroelectronics, Texas Instruments, Renesas and major Malaysian-owned companies such as Silterra, Globetronics, Unisem and Inari have contributed to the steady growth of the semiconductor industry in Malaysia. To date, there are more than 50 companies, largely MNCs producing semiconductors devices.
The presence of IC design firms strengthens the semiconductor ecosystem by providing IC design services for their own products or outsourced. Today, IC design firms have added more value to their capabilities. Companies such as MyMs and Symmid have diversified their product base to feed the needs of the financial, Halal and LED markets. More IC design firms and fabless companies are needed to create a wider set-up of new technology and products.
- c)Industrial Electronics
This sub-sector consists of multimedia and information technology products such as computers, computer peripherals, telecommunication products and office equipment. The industrial electronics sub-sector is the second largest sub-sector, comprising 28%of the total investments approved in the E&E sector for 2014.
- d) Electrical
The major electrical products produced under this sub-sector are lightings, solar related products and household appliances such as air-conditioners, refrigerators, washing machines and vacuum cleaners.
A brief outline on the construct of E&E :
The electronics industry is generally comprised of three groups of firms: brand firms, contract manufacturers and component suppliers. Brand firms subcontract and outsource a considerable amount of their manufacturing activities and use a range of suppliers for parts and components. In many ways, they organize global supply chains by determining how production is organized, which suppliers are able to participate and under what conditions, such as price, quality and delivery requirements.
Electronics companies from developed countries first relocated to Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan (China) and Thailand during the 1970s and early 1980s, 13 followed by China, Indonesia and the Philippines, and more recently India and Eastern European countries, such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Romania. The signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement also led to the development of large manufacturing facilities in Mexico in the 1990s. 15 The majority of subcontracted and outsourced electronics manufacturing continues to be done in Asia, mainly due to its low labour and other costs, established supply base and proximity to key final markets. Today, China is the world’s largest producer of computer hardware and occupies 80 per cent of the basic E&E.
Adopted and adapted from:
G. van Liemt: Recent developments on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Hardware Manufacturing, Multinational Enterprises Programme, Working Paper No.103, ILO, Geneva, 2007.
In the 1970s, there were five Free Trade Zones (FTZ): Bayan Lepas in Penang, Prai and Prai Wharf in then Butterworth opposite Penang island, Sungai Way in Selangor and Batu Berendam in Malacca that would later have other FTZs developed in Pulau Jerejak (Penang), Ulu Kelang (Selangor), Tanjung Keling (Malacca), Pasir Gudang and Tanjung Agas (both in Johore).
It must be stated that FTZ facilities – in bonded factories – are also nowadays available to all export industries regardless of their location.
Some of the earlier pioneer Foreign Electronic-Firms in FTZ:
National Semiconductor Corp. (USA)
Litronix Inc. (USA)
ITT Transelectronics (USA)
Micro-Systems International (Canada)
Robert Bosch Photokino (Germany)
Motorola Inc. (USA)
Monsanto Co. (USA)
Teledyne Inc. (USA)
Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. (JAPAN)
Texas Instruments Inc. (USA)
Nippon Electric Corp. (JAPAN)
APPENDIX B Facility Location and Capacity Planning in Supply Chain Linkages
Example case-firm: Canon Opto Malaysia
Shattering the Glass Screen
In 2007, a month before the iPhone was production scheduled, the late Steven Jobs took some of his staff to an office. He had been carrying a prototype of the device in his pocket daily for weeks.
Mr. Jobs angrily held up his iPhone so that everyone could see the dozens of tiny scratches marring its plastic screen. He then pulled his keys from his jeans.
People will carry this phone in their pocket, he was quoted to say.
People also carry their keys in their pocket.
“I won’t sell a product that gets scratched,” he said tensely.
The only solution was to use unscratchable glass instead.
“I want a glass screen, and I want it perfect in six weeks.”
(read Duhigg, C and Bradsher, K. “How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work”
in The New York Times, published January 21st., 2012).
An executive left that meeting and booked a flight to Shenzhen, China. If Mr. Jobs wanted a perfection, there was nowhere else to go, (see Malik, Y, Niemeyer, A. and Ruwadi,B. “Building the supply chain of the future”, McKinsey Quarterly, January 2011; see also Aminpour, S. and Woetzel, “Applying lean manufacturing in China”, The McKinsey Quarterly 2006 Special Edition, pp. 106-115). To compare the underlying leadership philosophy in operations management, see Kim, M.(2012), “Samsung’s crisis culture: a driver and a drawback”, Sep. 2, 2012 (Reuters).
It was often argued that such material production like the glass panels could make in the USA, and then ship it by boat, but that would take 35 days. “Or, we could ship it by air, but that’s 10 times as expensive. So we build our glass factories next door to assembly factories, and those are overseas.” (see Wingfield, N and Duhigg, C. “Apple Lists Its Suppliers for 1st Time” in The New York Times, published January 13th, 2012).
A former executive had described how the company depended upon a Chinese factory to revamp the iPhone manufacturing just weeks before the device was due to be marketed. Apple had redesigned the iPhone’s screen at the last minute thereby enforcing an assembly line overhaul. New screens began arriving at the plant close to midnight.
A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day.
The focus on Asia “came down to two things,” said one former high-ranking Apple executive. Factories in Asia “can scale up and down faster” and “Asian supply chains have surpassed what’s in the U.S.” (also to read Bruce Constantine, Brian D. Ruwadi, and Joshua Wine article on “Management practices that drive supply chain success” in McKinsey Quarterly, February 2009).
“The speed and flexibility is breathtaking,” the executive said. “There’s no American plant that can match that.” (to compare this statement with Stefan Knupfer and Glenn Mercer article on “Can US auto suppliers stay ahead of Chinese rivals?” McKinsey Quarterly, September 2005).
When an Apple team visited, the Chinese plant’s owners were already constructing a new wing. “This is in case you give us the contract,” the manager said, according to a former Apple executive. The Chinese government had agreed to underwrite costs for numerous industries, and those subsidies had trickled down to the glass-cutting factory. It had a warehouse filled with glass samples available to Apple, free of charge. The owners made engineers available at almost no cost. They had built on-site dormitories so employees would be available 24 hours a day.
“The entire supply chain is in China now,” said another former high-ranking Apple executive. “You need a thousand rubber gaskets? That’s the factory next door. You need a million screws? That factory is a block away. You need that screw made a little bit different? It will take three hours.”
The dynamic change in the electronic and electrical supply chain is also a reflection on innovative technologies that enable, and enhance, the digital production, and the enhancement of a digital economy. Look at the pre-iTune environment and the cutting off with sub-contracting intermediaries in subsequent operational management:
Foxconn, the world’s largest Apple subcontractor, once had more than 200,000 workers in one facility in Longhua, a factory district of Shenzhen in south China also known as “iPod City” (Webster, Nick. 2006. “Welcome to iPod City: The ‘Robot’ Workers on 15-hour Days”). In a few years, the Longhua factory grew to about a 400,000 population and the total number of Foxconn employees in China exceeded 1 million in 2012.
An eight-hour drive from that glass factory we mentioned above, is a complex, known informally as Foxconn City, where the iPhone is assembled. To Apple executives, Foxconn City was further evidence that China could deliver hard-working workers — and diligence — that could and would outpace their American counterparts.
Nothing like Foxconn City ever exists in the United States.
The facility has 230,000 employees, many working six days a week 12 hours a day at the plant. Over a quarter of Foxconn’s work force lives in company barracks; many workers earn less than US$17 a day. When one Apple executive arrived during a shift change, his car was stuck in a river of employees streaming past. “The scale is unimaginable,” he was quoted to utter.
(It was reported that Foxconn employs nearly 300 guards to direct foot traffic so workers are not crushed in doorway bottlenecks. The facility’s central kitchen was stated to be to cook an average of three tons of pork and boiled 13 tons of rice daily).
Another critical advantage for Apple was that China provided engineers at a scale the United States could not match. In fact, Apple’s executives had estimated that about 8,700 industrial engineers were needed to oversee and guide the 200,000 assembly-line workers eventually involved in manufacturing iPhones. The company’s analysts had forecast it would take as long as nine months to find that many qualified engineers in the United States.
In China, it took 15 days.
That was in some places and at a time not too long ago.
For those of you who had recently visited Jiuzhaigou, Chengdu, this latter city in southwest China is a pulsating IT hub, with all the imperfect ramifications of capitalism expansiveness powering the largest, fastest and most sophisticated manufacturing system on earth, (within seven months last year, two explosions at iPad factories, including in Chengdu, killed four people and injured 77; refer Duhigg and Barboza article on “Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad”, published in The New York Times, January 25th; [cleaning iPad screens with n-hexane, a toxic chemical that can cause nerve damage and paralysis]; other negative reports include the Taiyun assembly plant rioting (Reuter, Sep 2012; ENGADGET.com, Oct 6th. 2012).
That system has made it possible for Apple, and hundreds of other transnational companies, to build devices almost as quickly as they can be dreamed up.
Foxconn has a notorious “military-style” management system, which abused workers and caused at least 17 workers attempting suicide in the first eight months of 2010, an unprecedented tragedy in the history of electronics manufacture, (Chan and Pun 2010); see also Pun, Ngai., Huilin Lu, Yuhua Guo and Yuan Shen, edits., Suicides behind the Glory of Foxconn. Hong Kong: Commercial Press, 2011, (in Chinese).
For instance, during the worker uprising at Foxconn’s Taiyuan plant in September 2012, police and guards reportedly targeted workers who tried to record the event with their mobile phones (Mozur 2012b), showing that the short circuits move in both directions and Foxconn was significantly concerned about the consequences of these circulating video “rumours”.
In May 2014, one of Apple’s most important suppliers, NXP Semiconductors, dismissed all 24 elected union officials from IndustriALL affiliate MWAP at its plant in a special economic zone in Cabuyao, Philippines. NXP claimed the union’s peaceful industrial actions were illegal. It was clear that the company’s persistent acts of intimidation and harassment were aimed at weakening the bargaining power of the union.
According to local labour activists, Foxconn was once responsible for about half of all finger-related work injuries in key hospitals of Shenzhen’s factory zones in Longhua and Guanlan. To contextualize this datum, in Shenzhen and the surrounding Pearl River Delta of south China, factory workers lose or break about 40,000 fingers on the job each year, (nytimes.com “In Many Chinese Factories, Loss of Fingers and Low Pay”
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/05/business/worldbusiness/05sweatshop.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 Accessed April 7, 2014).
Foxconn resolved many of the injury or suicide cases through extra-legal means, including several cases that we followed closely (Pun et al. 2011; Qiu 2012). Since 2010, it has also used large number of “student interns”, including child labour, to generate more profit by evading China’s labor contract law, thus offering yet another illustration for the informalization process: formal circuits cannot be sustained for long without tapping into informal circuits, (Ngai Pun and Jenny Chan, “Global Capital, the State, and Chinese Workers: The Foxconn Experience, Modern China 38, number 4, 2013, pp. 383-410).
The Surplus Value
Some notable aspects of the iPhone are expected here. It is uniquely American. The device’s software, for instance, and its innovative marketing campaigns were largely created in the United States. Apple recently built a $500 million data center in North Carolina. Crucial semiconductors inside the iPhone 4 and 4S are manufactured in an Austin, Tex., factory by Samsung, of South Korea.
However, when the California plant is compared with overseas factories, the fact is that the cost, excluding the materials, of building a $1,500 computer in Elk Grove was US$22 a machine. In Singapore, it was US$6; in Taiwan, US$4.85, see figure below on costs of production, capital accumulation and the surplus value extracted from such operations management:
Wages were not the only reason for the disparities. Rather it was costs like inventory and how long it took workers to finish a task. The pace of innovation, say executives from a variety of industries, has been quickened by businessmen like Mr. Jobs whereas General Motors went as long as half a decade between major automobile redesigns. Apple, by comparison, has released five iPhones in four years, doubling the devices’ speed and memory while dropping the price that some consumers pay.
And in the relentless pursuit towards perfection, shrinking the supply chain, and ultimately the standardization of components, Apple is scouring new technological advancement like requesting Japanese liquid-crystal-display makers like Sharp Corporation and Japan Display Inc. as well as South Korea’s LG’s Display Co. in mass producing panels for the next iPhone using so-called in-cell technology, the people said.
This new technology integrates touch sensors into the LCD, making it unnecessary to have a separate touch-screen layer. The absence of the layer, usually about half-a-millimeter thick, not only makes the whole screen thinner, but improves the quality of displayed images, said DisplaySearch analyst Hiroshi Hayase, (Jessica E. Vascellaro, Wall Street Journal 2012;
see also http://tech.malaysia.msn.com/article.aspx?cp-documentid=250847860).
By June 2012, Foxconn had expressed an interest, and planning, to build a factory in Indonesia. The Jakarta Globe (June 28th. 2012) was reported to state that Indonesia Industry Minister M.S. Hidayat spoke about Foxconn’s intentions to enter Indonesia “bringing along technology, and [needing] some 1 million workers…….and if they do so, I will give them incentives of tax holiday, tax allowance and other facilities,” he said”. The investment is estimated to be worth more than US$1 billion, the minister added. With an expression into perspective is that Apple’s iPhones and iPads now commands for nearly three-quarter of its revenue-generation, (The Star, 21st. January 2013). However, that plant in Indonesia remains in a limbo due to political snags.
Now, the iPhones are rolling off an assembly line near Sao Paulo, Brazil, the only Apple manufacturing plant in the world made outside China. Foxconn ramped up the assembly of iPhones and iPads during late 2012, with an initial investment of 1 billion reais (US$325 million) to anchor an industrial park producing components locally.
The Itu site, situated in the sleepy tourist town in Sao Paulo stated – nicknamed “The City of Exaggeration” – remains an empty expanse of dirt where bulldozers have been leveling the land since late last year. The City Council that had donated the 100-acre of land to Foxconn, has since turned against the project. “People are really frustrated, “ said Givanildo Soares da Silva the City councilor. “We were expecting all these jobs by now and it is still just empty promises.”
Foxconn had prepared a statement indicating the facility should be operational by the end of this year, (Reuters, 13th. April 2015), bringing its Brazilian workforce to more than 10,000.
Apple’s official list of its top 200 suppliers, accounting for 97 per cent of materials and manufacturing costs, includes just two companies in Brazil: Foxconn and fellow Taiwanese electronics company Lite-On Technology Corp.
Foxconn currently have five facilities in the country that make products under contract for various technology companies, including just one unit producing Apple devices in Jundiai, about 30 miles east of Itu.
A worker testing iPhones earn about US$80 per week, just US$15 above the minimum wage. A fourth strike in as many years was brewing.
However, Terry Guo, the founder and chairman of Foxconn, had discussed Brazilian labor rather witheringly, “….as soon as they hear ‘soccer’, they stop working. And there’s all the dancing. It’s crazy,” he had once told the Wall Street Journal in 2010.
The steep cost of consumer goods in Brazil, along with high tariffs and interest rates, has contributed to the low productivity, too. The iPhones rolling off the assembly line in Sao Paulo carry a retail price tag of nearly US$1000 for a 32-gigabyte iPhone 5S without a contract – among the highest prices in the world and about twice what they sell in the U.S.
Terry Guo, Foxconn owner and CEO once publicly stated, “as human beings are also animals, to manage one million animals gives me a headache” Calling workers “animals” is a candid reflection that the factory only values the bodily input of its labor force, not other aspects of its humanity, (Markoff, John. 2012. “Skilled Work, Without the Worker”, The New York Times.
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/19/business/new-wave-of-adept-robots-is-changing-globalindustry.html?pagewanted=all Accessed April 7, 2014).
Chan, Pun and Selden, “The Politics of Global Production: Apple, Foxconn and China’s new working class”, New Technology, Work and Employment, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp. 100-115, July 2013.
Christian Fuchs, “Digital Labor and Imperialism”, Monthly Review, Volume:67, Issue 08, January 2016.
Foster and McChesney, “The Endless Crisis”, Monthly Review, Volume 64, issue 01, May 1, 2012.
Torkil Lauesen and Zak Cope, “Imperialism and the Transformation of Values into Prices”, Monthly Review, July 1st. 2015.
Marisol Sandoval, “Foxconned: labor as the Dark Side of the Information Age”, tripleC, 11, number 2 (2013); 318-47.
Jack L. Qiu, Goodbye iSlave: Rethinking Labor, Capitalism, and Digital Media (University of Illinois press, 2016).
This Appendix article
– based on a MBA Discussion Paper on Operations Management –
is extracted, and adapted with new materials, from a contribution to
the STORM collective by a lecturer at a private digital university, Malaysia.