The New York Times offers an in-depth case study chronicling why Apple decided to outsource its manufacturing and much of its engineering operations. "[T]he company's decisions pose broader questions about what corporate America owes Americans as the global and national economies are increasingly intertwined," write authors Charles Duhigg and Keith Bradhser.
"One former [Apple] executive described how the company relied upon a Chinese factory to revamp iPhone manufacturing just weeks before the device was due on shelves. Apple had redesigned the iPhone's screen at the last minute, forcing an assembly line overhaul. New screens began arriving at the plant near midnight. A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company's dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day. 'The speed and flexibility is breathtaking,' the executive said. 'There's no American plant that can match that.'"
... "[I]n the last two decades, something more fundamental has changed, economists say. Midwage jobs started disappearing. Particularly among Americans without college degrees, today's new jobs are disproportionately in service occupations - at restaurants or call centers, or as hospital attendants or temporary workers - that offer fewer opportunities for reaching the middle class."
A perhaps related broadcast by Ira Glass on NPR's This American Life seemed to presage the recent article. In this show, Mike Daisey, a self-described "worshipper in the cult of Mac" saw photos from a new iPhone, "taken by workers at the factory where it was made. Mike wondered: Who makes all my crap? He traveled to China to find out."