SOMO research shows that ICT production in countries that are perceived as cheaper is often combined with poor working conditions.
Since its beginning in the early 1980s, the sector has experienced rapid growth characterised by strong competition in which the brand name companies are increasingly concentrating on their core competencies such as R&D, marketing, and branding to stay ahead.
Production and, increasingly, design and supply chain management are contracted out, resulting in complicated production chains and responsibilities. In the new report ‘CSR issues in the ICT hardware manufacturing sector‘ SOMO focuses on an industry that has continuously shifted to countries that are perceived as cheaper, producing predominantly in export zones where labour rights and environmental issues have no priority. Research done for SOMO in China and the Philippines shows that computers are produced under endemic overtime, while a lack of unions and barriers to organising means that the workers cannot negotiate improvements. Workers are hired on short term contracts for years, blacklisted and subjected to discriminatory application processes.
The extensive use of toxic chemicals in the production of ICT devices creates huge problems during the entire lifecycle of ICT products. There are subsequent problems with occupational health and safety in the production facilities as well as environmental and community problems in the vicinity of the factories and around the waste disposal sites.