The Ethical Toy Program, which covers more than half of toy factories in the country, is strengthening its social auditing criteria and improving communication with workers but denies allegations of labour abuses from an NGO. Terry Slavin reports
China makes around 75% of all the toys in the world, and nine in 10 of the toys sold in the US. Focused mainly around the coastal area of Guangdong, this $30bn industry employs some six million mainland workers.
The toy sector was early to move manufacturing into China. And the problems came almost simultaneously. For the past 18 years the toy sector has been implicated in research into human rights abuses such as child labour.
China Labor Watch said even companies that have promised to uphold human rights “continue to blatantly violate the rights of workers
Many of these allegations come from New York based NGO China Labor Watch (CLW), which describes the toy industry as “one of the worst industries in terms of labour rights” and regularly conducts undercover investigations.
In an investigation last year of four toy factories primarily supplying western brands, including Mattel (see How Mattel’s quick move rescued Barbie), Walmart and Disney, China Labor Watch said even companies that have promised to uphold human rights “continue to blatantly violate the rights and interests of workers who manufacture their products”.
It said workers in all four factories were putting in more than 80 hours in overtime...