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iPod City: inside Apple\'s iPod factories

Apple Computer's iconic digital music players are built primarily by female workers who sometimes earn as little as $50 per week, according to an article in the print edition of Mail on Sunday.

The report, dubbed "iPod City," offers a rare glimpse inside Apple's massive iPod manufacturing facilities, which are owned by Foxconn and situated in China.

By itself, Foxconn's Longhua facility is reported to house over 200,000 workers — or a population larger than the British city of Newcastle. Its exterior gates flaunt billboards encouraging anyone over the age of 16 to apply for a job.

Inside Longhua, workers labor a 15-hour day building iPods, for which they usually earn about $50 per month. When they're not on the assembly lines, they live in secluded dormitories that each house 100 people and prohibit visitors from the outside world. The workers are allowed "a few possessions" and a "bucket to wash their clothes."

"We have to work too hard and I am always tired. It's like being in the army," Zang Lan, one of the workers at Longhua, told the Mail. "They make us stand still for hours. If we move we are punished by being made to stand still for longer. The boys are made to do pushups."

According to the report, the iPod nano is made in a five-story factory called "E3" that is secured by armed police officers. The super-slim digital music player is said to include over 400 parts which arrive from component manufacturers all over the world.

Another factory in Suzhou, Shanghai, manufacturers iPod shuffles and is completely surrounded by barbed wire. At this facility, 50,000 workers are housed outside the plant and earn about $99 per month. However, they must pay out of pocket for their accommodations and food, "which takes up half their salaries."

One security guard told the Mail that the iPod shuffle production lines are staffed by women workers because "they are more honest than male workers."

According to the report, Apple is just one of thousands of companies that now use Chinese facilities to manufacture its products. China's low wages, long hours and industrial secrecy, make the country attractive to business, especially as increased competition and consumer expectations force companies to deliver products at lower prices.