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Challenging Labour - Working Conditions in the Electronics Industry

Sandoval, M. & Bjurling, K. (2013). Challenging Labour - Working Conditions in the Electronics Industry. In: Garwood, S., Croeser, S. & Yakinthou, C. (Eds.), Lessons for Social Change in the Global Economy: Voices from the Field. (pp. 99-124). UK: Lexington Books.


The growing importance and availability of electronics products has transformed the lives of people around the globe. According to estimates by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), today one third of the world's population is using the Internet, the global penetration of mobile phone subscriptions has reached 87 % and 74 % of all households in developed countries and 25 % of households in developing countries own a computer (ITU 2011, 1-2). New information and communication technologies have the potential to connect people around the world, to facilitate communication and co-operation, to assist political protest and to foster participation as well as to alleviate work. However, at the same time the production of these electronics products often takes place under unacceptably burdensome conditions. This chapter aims to focus attention on the darker side of the electronics boom. It builds on the results of a number of empirical studies conducted by the European makeITfair project, which is presented below. In this chapter we provide insights into the working reality in the electronics manufacturing sector and points at specific challenges. Based on research results of the makeITfair project we argue that corporate self-regulation is unlikely to lead to sustainable improvements. By building a better understanding of the causes and effects of labour rights violations in the electronics production sector the project highlights the necessity for structural reforms. Fostering such long-term transformations requires raising awareness regarding labour rights, exposing corporate social irresponsibility, and increasing public pressure on corporations. This chapter makes an important contribution to that task.

In the following we will give an overview of market leading companies in the sector (section 1) and introduce the makeITfair project (section 2). In the next section we briefly describe some common characteristics of four major electronics production countries (section 3), before we provide more detailed evidence regarding several work-related problems in the electronics manufacturing sector (section 4). Finally, in the conclusion we point towards some starting points for improving the situation of workers (section 5).

Publication Type: Book Section
Additional Information: © All rights reserved. Please contact the publisher for permission to copy, distribute or reprint. This material is reproduced by permission of Rowman & Littlefield: The material is not distributed under any kind of Open Access style licenses (e.g. Creative Commons) which may affect the License with The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > Sociology & Criminology
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