Dispatch laborers are hired through third party companies (like temping agencies in the United States) and have no formal agreement with a factory. Factories use dispatch labor because it is enormously profitable: It lets them get away with no severance pay, no responsibility for occupational hazards or work-related injury, no collective bargaining, and no limit on overtime. It's the same ruthless exploitation of unregulated laborers that our Andy Kroll found in sub-contracted "shadow factories" in China, and a massive loophole in Apple's pledge to protect worker's rights in its factories.
CLW found that all but one of the Apple factories they investigated relied heavily on dispatch labor. The exception to the rule? Factories belonging to Foxconn, which, after finding itself in the glare of the Western media, transferred all the dispatch laborers in their Shenzhen factories to "direct hire" status in 2011, according to CLW's report. In a different factory in the same region, CLW found that almost 90 percent of the workers were dispatch laborers.
Take that number with a grain of salt, though. CLW admits that it doesn't have the access or the data to do a thorough investigation, and critics will be quick to point out the flaws in CLW's statistics; in factories that employ tens of thousands of laborers, the highest number of surveys returned was 94. In most cases, CLW was prevented from collecting data and conducting interviews. In Shanghai, 150 surveys were seized by local police, who arrested CLW investigators and bought them bus tickets out of the province.