We insist on the highest standards for all the children who work for us in China

It’s true that we’ve found a few cases where some of our suppliers have hired underage workers in China. To our credit, we published this information ourselves, on our Web site. Also, let’s be clear — we’re talking about 15-year-old kids, who lied about their age and pretended to be 16 so they could get a job. I know the press is going to go nuts about this, and you’ll be seeing sensationalist headlines about us hiring children to make iPods. Well, I suppose it sells papers. But the truth is, I was working when I was 15. I bet you were too. Didn’t hurt me, and I don’t think it hurt the kids who were working in our factories. But anyway, we all have to play along and pretend to be contrite. But the truth is, we treat the kids in our factories better than any other company on earth, and frankly, I’m damn proud of that.

We’re totally committed to protecting teen workers and making sure they’re not getting exploited. For example, while we still allow job applicants to pay for the privilege of getting jobs working for Apple suppliers, we’re limiting the amount you can spend on that bribe recruiting fee — from now on, nobody has spend more than one month’s wages to get a job working for us. We’re very proud of this. We also require that each teen’s mattress contains at least four ounces of straw, and we never allow more than three kids per bed in the dormitories. And the ones who work around dangerous chemicals now are required to wear paper masks — because even though there’s no law about this, we just think it’s the right thing to do.

But I’d like to address the larger issue of hiring children to make iPods and iPhones. I suppose this sounds awful, if you’re a Westerner with Western biases. But think about it. We’re trying to make products that appeal to young people. How better to do that than to have young people making the products? These kids are the best focus group in the world.

Plus, do you have any idea how tiny the components on these new iPods are? Adults simply can’t do the job. Their fingers are too big. And their eyes fatigue too easily from all the squinting. Half of them go blind after a year on the job, and then we have to shove them out into the streets where they beg for coins because they have no disability coverage. At Apple we’ve decided that this just doesn’t meet our standards. So we’ve stopped doing hiring adults for many of our assembly jobs.

Kids, on the other hand? Tiny fingers, sharp eyes. In other words, perfect. Plus, you should see how psyched these kids are to be working on Apple products. They may come from some rural shithole village in the middle of nowhere, but they know that Apple products are cool, and they’re tremendously proud to be making them. Their great dream, the one thing that keeps them getting up every morning at five a.m. for that bowl of cold porridge, is the hope that someday they might be able to afford to purchase one of our gorgeous devices for themselves.

Every time I visit one of our manufacturing facilities I’m overwhelmed by the teenagers who line up to greet me. The way they smile, with their weirdly misshapen teeth, and wave to me with their disfigured, chemically stained hands! The way they bow to me and call out, Wangbadan, which is an extremely formal way of saying “Thank you, O great one.” I often leave in tears.

Also, our manufacturing campuses offer great meals — not free, but subsidized — plus an awesome gym and a swimming pool. And loads of ping pong tables because they’re crazy for ping pong over there. But you won’t see those things mentioned in any of these sensationalist articles. No, they’d rather just dwell on the bad stuff. Well, as usual, there’s more to the story than what you read on the Internet. The truth is, we’re setting a standard that no other company in the world has been able to match, and we’re extremely proud of what we’ve accomplished.

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