The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

China:
The super-exploitation of the toy factory workers

Jan 6, 2003

Exhausted, closed-in, super-exploited: that is the situation of the young Chinese girls who have barely left their childhood before they begin assembling most of the Christmas toys sold around the world.

Just before the holiday season, a group of non-government organizations denounced the conditions under which most toys are manufactured for the big toy producers of the rich countries. Barbie dolls, Friends of the Forest, and Harry Potter figurines: 70% of the toys of the planet are produced in China.

All the big brands profit from the low wages in China: Mattel, Hasbro, Lego, Fisher Price, etc. This moving of production to low-wage countries has allowed them all to substantially increase their profits.

In China, the workers put in between 12 and 16 hours a day, seven days a week, for the equivalent of between 37 and 61 dollars a month depending on the number of overtime hours and the number of pieces produced. As soon as this seasonal work declines, the workers are thrown out of work.

On the job, they often live in company housing near or even in the factories. In 1992, two fires in toy factories – one in China, and one in Thailand – killed 276 workers.

The bosses, along with some journalists, justify this practice saying it benefits poorer countries, allowing them to carry out an industrial revolution like the one that took place in the wealthier countries in the 18th century. However, in the 18th and 19th centuries, there were men and women who denounced this form of modern slavery. And fortunately, there were social struggles that succeeded in making these practices out-dated.

Unfortunately, we now see them reappear in the 21st century.

It is not true that child slavery in the mines of India or the textile factories in Pakistan is a necessary economic stage in the development of poor countries.

Such a development does not benefit society overall, but only the bank accounts of a few modern slaveholders. For society as a whole to benefit, new and bigger social struggles will have to be carried out in the 21st century.