Without mobile phones modern communication seems impossible. The total number of mobile telephone subscriptions reached 3.3 billion in 2007. More than 1.1 billion mobile phones were manufactured worldwide that same year. Most of us living in the developed world own at least one or two mobile phones, getting a new one almost every year.
The mobile phone industry is dominated by a small number of large multinationals, Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, LG and Sony Ericsson. Together these five companies control almost 85% of the mobile phone consumer market.
None of these companies are working with trade unions and labour rights organisations. Workers are not informed about audits or involved in corrective plans, nor are there complaints systems in place. The working conditions are often desolate. Indigenous peoples and millions of other migrant workers have moved from the impoverished countryside to find work in some developing countrys’ expanding electronics industry, many of whom are low-skilled women aged 16 to 30, working six to seven days a week for ten to twelve hours a day and are paid as little as 35 cents per hour in provinces in China where shower cream costs 1,80 Euro. Moreover many of these workers are exposed to chemicals and environmental pollution.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo 50.000 children some as young as seven work in mines exploited to obtain some of the up to 30 metals needed for mobile phones. Many of the coveted metals and natural resources needed for production of mobile phones are located below indigenous peoples’ feet. These peoples are expelled from their lands and become dependant on the poor work the mines provide.
Working there they risk their lives. Air pollution is so bad that many children in mining areas suffer from crippling lung diseases and other health issues caused by pollution. However, health centers are poorly equipped. There is no safe drinking water, not sufficient food. At the same time companies are enriching themselves in front of the poor workers’ eyes. Where is their compassion? Where generosity, one asks oneself.
Since companies do not provide proper working conditions, we all need to take responsibility for improving the appalling working as well as social and environmental conditions in the mineral mines around the world.
MakeITfair is a campaign run by a group of European organizations to challenge unfair and unsustainable practices in the supply chain of consumer electronics. You could support the fight and send an e-mail to electronics bosses to improve these appalling conditions.