I've resisted posting on these threads because I don't want to start a war. However, I think it's finally time that I spoke up.
Firstly, I live in China, speak Mandarin and Cantonese and build electronics among other things over here.
I think this isn't a bad thing in concept, but everyone needs to get a little perspective on the issue. The educated workers, engineers and the like, are pretty well taken care of. They make middle class (for the region) wages, get weekends off and generally put in a comparable number of productive hours to US engineers.
The factory workers, which are the ones that everyone seems to worry about also have it pretty good. They get company provided housing (no, the housing isn't up to western standards, but it's significantly better then where they grew up, I PROMISE). They also get company provided food (No, it isn't Ruth's Chris, but it isn't bad.. I frequently eat in the factory when I don't want to take the time to go out).
Everyone is trying to apply western working standards to the workers over here. While I think it's great in principle, consideration has to be taken for cultural and lifestyle differences. Most of the people that are working in those factories came from a life of subsistence farming. They are also migrant workers. Their families live back in Henan, Hunan, Dongbei, etc... Most of them grew up in a single concrete room. They're quite lucky if their parents house had a flushable toilet.
Making a thousand or two thousand RMB per month, having a decent bed to sleep in and 3 meals a day is a significant upgrade.
With all of that said, I'm also a firm believer in giving them the opportunity for more. Everybody should have the chance to enjoy western working standards. But, it needs to be done in a patient manner. Expecting Apple to leverage Foxconn to give $10/hr and carpeted apartments to 200,000 workers is way out of proportion. Not only would it be prohibitively expensive, but it would screw up Foxconn's competitiveness.
Remember, Iphones aren't the only thing made in Foxconn city. Hundreds of other electronics manufacturers make things there. If Foxconn doesn't stay competitive in Shenzhen, somebody will open a factory in Vietnam where they don't even have to feed their staff and pretty soon all of those people in SZ that everyone was so worried about will be out of work and back to subsistence farming.
Let me repeat... I'm not opposed to this. A little external influence to help them move up the economic ladder is certainly not a bad thing. Neither are all the good intentions. What is a bad thing is expecting too much to happen too fast. China has advanced at it's own pace QUITE effectively in a single generation. We all need to bear that in mind.
They have a long ways to go, but they've come a HELL OF A LONG WAYS from hole-in-the-ground toilets that don't flush.
I'd say, we should all give Apple and Foxconn some credit for the 200,000 migrant children of farmers that now can feed their families back home and raise their children in better conditions then what they grew up in. Isn't that the "American Dream"? Giving more to your children then you had?