In China, Making Toys for the West Isn´t Child´s Play

Portrait of a Factory Worker

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PARIS, NOV. 28, 2001 ( Average age: 17-25 years. Sex: female. Nationality: Chinese. Origin: rural. Salary: $50 a month. Working hours: 16 daily. Employment: worker in Disney, Mattel and McDonald´s subcontracted enterprises.

This is a portrait of the typical Chinese worker, as prepared by the Asia Monitor Resource Center, a humanitarian group which interviewed employees in a dozen factories in the southern province of Guangdong.

In this region, over 6,000 factories, employing millions of young women, produce the majority of toys sold in the West.

«After they leave their village, they can only continue to live in the city because of the contract with their employer, who at times confiscates their papers to prevent them from quitting,» the spokeswoman for the Asia Monitor Resource Center, May Wong, explained this week while on a tour of France.

«They live in common, unhealthy and overcrowded dormitories, and only have a bed where they can store their things,» she said.

«As soon as they reach 25, they are considered too old to work,» Wong added. «They often turn to prostitution, so as not to return to their birthplace, where they are no longer respected.»

Regarding the factory work, she said: «They are paid by item and work up to 16 hours a day during the high season.»

That season is Christmas in the West, but in China it means working flat out from March to October, to supply clients in good time.

«During this period, they cannot take a vacation, and their free time is limited on occasion to half a day a month,» Wong explained.

When business is slow, the workers are dismissed without pay, she added.

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