Code Conference

Apple China conditions not so bad, exec says

Jeff Williams at Code Conference on May 27, 2015.
Asa Mathat | Re/Code

Apple's working conditions in China are improving, and were never as bad as media reports suggested, according to senior executive Jeff Williams. (Tweet This)

"I couldn't be prouder of the work the team is doing making sure people who work there are treated fairly," Williams, a senior vice president, said Wednesday in an on-stage interview at the Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. "People are continuously getting paid more. Every year sales are increasing. We pay more than average rates in the area."

Williams said that Apple's investigation of suicides over the years at facilities run by Foxconn, its outside manufacturer, indicated that they weren't related to working conditions.

Furthermore, he said there weren't that many on a relative basis. When suicide rates were at their highest, they were lower than at any point in the U.S.

"By that definition, it would be the happiest place on earth," he said.

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Apple has for years been under fire for the treatment of factory workers in China.

A string of suicides from 2010 to 2012 caught the attention of mainstream media outlets, and led to stories highlighting the extremely long hours, low pay, rough conditions and young age of many manual laborers helping assemble iPhones and other devices.

Apple regains most valuable brand title
Apple regains most valuable brand title

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs addressed the issue five years ago at the D: All Things Digital conference, the predecessor to Code.

As for other products that the world's most valuable company has in the works, Williams was as cagey as any other Apple when discussing the future. Specifically, Williams was asked how the company will spend some of the mountains of cash on its balance sheet.

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He offered one hint: "The car is the ultimate mobile device."

Apple has been rumored to be in the auto game for a while, but the company hasn't confirmed that it's working on anything beyond the connected car application CarPlay.