A Nightmare for Workers: Appalling Conditions in Toy Factories Persist

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Press Release

When you immerse yourself in the world of toys, have you ever realized the human value attached to them? As a major toy producer, China produces an estimate 80% of all toys, with Guangdong being the primary production and export base. On December 6th, 2018, China Labor Watch (CLW) released a 190-page report on disturbing trends in the toy industry in China. CLW investigated four factories that make products for big toy brands such as Hasbro, Disney, and Mattel, but also for German manufacturers such as Simba Dickie, Schleich, and Ravensburger. These products are sold at Walmart, Costco, Target and other retailers. China Labor Watch implores these multinational companies to take responsibility in their production facilities and immediately take steps to combat this exploitation.   

The factories investigated in this report are Dongguan Lovable Toy Products Ltd., Dongguan Herald Metal and Plastic Works Ltd., Jetta (Guangzhou) Industries Co. Ltd., and Wah Tung (He Yuan) Toy Products Ltd. Co. The investigation reveals an astonishing 23 rights violations at these factories. The most egregious rights violations include unsafe factory conditions, disgusting dormitories, lack of union representation, and obscene working hours. Some of the factories investigated also fail to purchase social insurance for workers in accordance with the law.

This year’s report also includes a section on female factory workers. This section sheds light on the unique challenges a factory worker might face if she is a woman. Having a section particularly discussing female factory workers is important as more than 80 percent of regular workers at these factories are women. Despite this high percentage, there are only a few women holding management positions at the factories investigated. It is perhaps due to the lack of women in positions of authority, that pregnant women face hiring discrimination, and that women face penalties for applying for leave due to childcare or menstruation. Furthermore, there is no maternity leave.

While none of the factories investigated fully respects the rights and dignity of workers, some are much worse than others. Wah Tung has the most extreme conditions with up to 175 overtime hours per month and only one single rest day in August. If the assembly line adjusts to producing a new product resulting in workers having to work overtime to meet the production quota, wages will not be paid for the overtime hours put in. The other factories investigated also force workers to work unreasonable and inhumane overtime hours. At Dongguan Lovable Toy Products factory, 104 overtime hours are accumulated over the month. The Herald and Jetta factories demand 96 and 80 overtime hours respectively. These factories are all seriously violating Chinese labor law which stipulates that workers must not work more than 36 overtime hours per month.

Another problem present at all factories is low wages. During off-peak season, workers’ monthly wages are very low: 2,100 RMB ($301.87 USD) at Jetta, 1,800 RMB ($258.74 USD) at Herald, 1,720 RMB ($247.24 USD) at Lovable and 2,000 RMB ($287.49 USD) at Wah Tung. These wages are well below what is required to maintain a decent standard of living. The only way workers can ensure a basic standard of living for themselves and their families is to work overtime. However, workers should be able to support themselves without having to work overtime. The fact that workers must work overtime to afford such a basic standard of life is appalling and unacceptable. Companies should recognize that workers are the bedrock of their businesses and raise their wages accordingly.

With regards to the dormitories for workers at the factories investigated some are definitely better than others. Jetta factory and Herald have better living conditions with only 2-4 workers in a dormitory room, but this is because the number of workers at Jetta factory has decreased and the overwhelming majority of workers at Herald rent a house in Shipai town where a 1 bedroom-1 living room apartment there has a monthly rent of around 200 RMB (28.83 USD). However, at Wah Tung and Lovable, 8 to 10 workers are squeezed into a single dormitory room!

Unfortunately, exploiting workers is good for the pockets of business owners. It is profitable for CEOs and factory management to keep wages low, force workers to meet unrealistic production quotas, and harshly strikedown any dissent among workers. CLW has conducted investigations into toy factories for almost 20 years. Therefore, we are not surprised by any of the findings in this report. However, we are still disappointed that companies worth millions of dollars do not choose to improve the lives of the most vulnerable people they employ.

Download the detailed pdf report