Apple Takes a Hit in China, and Workers There Feel the Pain

A Pegatron spokeswoman, Ming-Chun Tsai, declined to comment on the Apple business.

Every year, before Apple’s usual September launches of its latest iPhones, the Changshuo factory adds temporary workers to accommodate the rush. It offers bonuses that can vary from $400 to $1,300 depending on demand, workers said. Qualified workers must be between 18 and 45 years old, be able to recognize the English alphabet and sport no visible tattoos, they said.

Many workers then typically leave before the Lunar New Year holiday, when they generally qualify for their bonus. But workers and local businesses alike said more workers than usual were leaving this year.

Huang Qionghuang owns a stall that sells bras that won’t set off metal detectors, an essential undergarment in a factory that scans workers coming and going to make sure they aren’t stealing or smuggling in cameras to take photos of the latest iPhone. In the past, October was her busy season. But sales slumped in recent months, and she dares not buy more bras to stock. The ones that did sell were the cheap ones, costing roughly $2.50.

“Last January, I earned more than my rent,” Ms. Huang said. “Now I can’t even make enough to pay the rent,” which she added was about $500 a month.

“This is the worst year since I came here three years ago,” she said.

Pegatron holds an outsize presence in Huojiancun. Online, it says the plant employs 70,000. Neon signs hanging among the warren of stalls next door call them the “Pegatron night market.” During busy seasons, according to local merchants, the streets and alleys are so crowded it can be difficult to move around.

More recently, merchants said, the Pegatron night market has grown quieter.

“There are fewer workers in the factory,” said Xu Aihua, who opened a local restaurant with his mother eight years ago. Looking up from the chicken soup he was making, Mr. Xu pointed to the nearly empty street out front. “See? There’s nobody.”

That could mean tough times for him and his mother. Their rent costs about $1,500 per month. A year ago, his daily revenue totaled about $150. In recent months, he has earned about half that.