And most Americans would be surprised to know that nearly all Apple products are manufactured by one million Chinese workers in the factories of Apple contractors, including its largest: Foxconn. Yet Tim Cook insists that China's vast and cheap labor force is not the primary reason for manufacturing there.
Charlie Rose: So if it's not wages, what is it?
Tim Cook: It's skill.
Charlie Rose: Skill?
Tim Cook: It's skill. It's that Chi--
Charlie Rose: They have more skills than American workers? They have more skills than--
Tim Cook: Now-- now, hold on.
Charlie Rose: --German workers?
Tim Cook: Yeah, let me-- let me-- let me clear, China put an enormous focus on manufacturing. In what we would call, you and I would call vocational kind of skills. The U.S., over time, began to stop having as many vocational kind of skills. I mean, you can take every tool and die maker in the United States and probably put them in a room that we're currently sitting in. In China, you would have to have multiple football fields.
Charlie Rose: Because they've taught those skills in their schools?
Tim Cook: It's because it was a focus of them-- it's a focus of their educational system. And so that is the reality.So there are two claims here. The first claim is that the US has very few tool and die makers.
That is false. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the United States has somewhere around 75,000 tool and die makers. Maybe these aren't the folks that Tim Cook is looking for? Maybe these folks make too much money for him to hire? Maybe there aren't enough for Apple?
But he is wrong: there are many, many tool and die makers in the United States.
Regarding the second claim: I would like to hear if it is true that manufacturing skills are emphasized in the Chinese educational system. Something tells me this is wrong. Readers, your thoughts?
UPDATE: This Marketwatch commentary (thanks, Anon1221p) notes that there were fewer tool and die makers in the US in 2014 than there were in 2004. Sure hope that number turns around, and that Apple is a part of it.