Bloomberg Businessweek has published a fascinating investigative report of how a worker in Nepal, Bibek Dhong, took up a job to test cameras for the iPhone 5 and underwent a journey of exploitation.
Behind the iPhone 5 was what has been touted as the most aggressive production-and-launch schedule ever attempted by Apple, which led to one of its suppliers — Flextronics International — eventually having to tap on Nepal’s network of subagents to seek workers to boost its supply chain. These subagents typically charge workers for linking them up with a job, and in the end when Dhong got fired shortly after — he was in debt, detained for some reason and went through near-starvation.
Having wired home much of their money in anticipation of following close behind, many started running out of cash. Then they ran low on food. The first to go hungry were among a group of younger men who had relied on a local restaurant outside the hostel to give them a meal a day on credit. The owner cut them off when he found out they’d lost their jobs, Dhong says. Hunger soon spread to almost everyone. At night Dhong could hear some of his compatriots shouting and screaming out the windows of their high-rise towers. One man Dhong knew seemed to be going stir-crazy, muttering and shouting to himself as he paced the hostel grounds.