Easy to manage – A report on Chinese toy workers and the responsibility of the companies

REPORT | 25 October 2004

Swedwatch have found that violations of the workers’ rights are recurrent phenomena in the manufacturing of toys that we give to our children. In May 2004 Swedwatch carried out an inquiry on the ground in Guangdong, China.

“Easy to manage” is a report about the making of toys, the rapid transfer of manufacturing to China, about the migrant workers at the assembly line, the global competition and about the responsibility of the Swedish companies for the consequence of their trade. The report is the result of one year’s research work. In May 2004 a study was carried out on the ground at Guangdong in China where a large part of the toy manufacturing takes place.

In February 2004 Hong Kong Christian Industrial Committee, HKCIC, carried out an inquiry of nine companies who supply toys to the Swedish market. The inquiry was performed on demand of SwedWatch and Fair Trade Center. HKCIC carried out interviews with workers outside the suppliers’ factories. The interviews with the workers show that the working conditions often are severe. Working hours of 14 hours per day, seven days a week, all days in the month are not unusual during the peak season. To that is added a dangerous working environment, a non-existent health and safety education, and low wages.

This means that the suppliers of the Nordic companies are violating the Chinese legislation, the ILO conventions as well as their own codes of conduct. Companies concerned are Coop, Top Toy (BR-toys and Toys R Us), Brio, Disney, Wal-mart, Mattel, ICA and Åhléns. Social inspections that are undertaken by the companies have not succeeded in disclosing these problems. Instead the majority of the suppliers make use of different systems to circumvent the controls.

This report tells about the violations of workers’ rights in the export industry of China and the manner in which the Nordic toy companies are linked to these violations. Furthermore, the report develops possible reasons of why the companies’ ethical demands have not led to more improvements. The report was also launched together with the documentary “Santa’s workshop”.

Gjord i samarbete med: Fair Trade Center