Apple Computer: Company to allow outside auditors, big problems remain

BEIJING, China — Apple, Inc., will allow outside auditors to inspect conditions at the Asia-based factories that make most of its components and assemble its massively popular products like iPhones and iPads.

In its Apple Supplier Responsibility 2012 Report, the tech giant said it would allow third-party inspectors to help assess factory working conditions and hundreds of plants, most believed to be based in China, although Apple is notoriously secretive about its supply chain.

Apple's latest report, its annual reveal of problems in its supply chain, found little cause for optimism that conditions for factory workers are improving in spite of massive media attention. It's worth noting, however, that there has been little consumer demand from the United States for improved factory conditions in Asia.

More from GlobalPost: In tell-all labor report, Apple airs suppliers' dirty laundry, promises to do better

In one finding of its expanded audit, Apple's auditors said just 38 percent of workplaces audited observe national wage and hour laws. Unpaid overtime was a major problem, while five factories were found to have underage workers and two others were busted for using "involuntary labor." Apple doesn't name the guilty parties or even countries.

If you've ever wondered what things are like in a Chinese electronics factory, the supplier audit gives a good glimpse (keep in mind that most companies know when an auditor is visiting so do the best they can to conceal potential offenses): Eighteen facilities audited screened applications for hepatitis (a common discriminatory practice in Chinese labor) and another 24 tested potential female workers for pregnancy.

Related: Foxconn resolves pay dispute with Chinese workers

The full report is available for download here.