Toys are produced for a few cents each
by vast numbers of young migrants toiling in sweatshop conditions.
Workers are forced to work 11- to 12-hour days seven days a week
in unsafe, toxic environments and spending the few hours they have off
in wretched, crowded dormitories on the factory grounds.
CHINA'S SANTA'S SWEATSHOP
"The Real Toy Story" rates early installation
on the list of best business books of 2007.
It should be required reading for parents who don't want to watch
their children get brainwashed by the toy industry.
Toy makers' worker treatment, marketing exposed
"The Real Toy Story: Inside the Ruthless Battle
for America's Youngest Consumers" by Eric Clark
book review by Cecil Johnson, Columbia Tribune, Jan 27, 2007
Don't tell the children, but Santa's elves' North Pole jobs have been outsourced. Most of the toys they found under the Christmas tree last month, according to investigative journalist Eric Clark, were made in China's Pearl River Delta. In his provocative new book "The Real Toy Story," Clark calls that part of the world's most-populous country "Santa's Sweatshop." Eighty percent of the world's toys are made there, Clark writes.
"This is where it happens. This is what makes today's toy industry possible. This is where toys are produced for a few cents each by vast numbers of young migrants toiling in sweatshop conditions. This is what makes it possible for the modern toy business to be able to spend such huge sums on marketing. This is the hidden face of the toy industry without which it could not exist," Clark writes.
Of course, most Western parents don't concern themselves about the conditions under which the toys they buy their children are made. Clark's stirring portrayal of the abominable conditions in the sweatshops could change some of that complacency. He shows the workers, mostly young women, being forced to work 11- to 12-hour days seven days a week in unsafe, toxic environments and spending the few hours they have off in wretched, crowded dormitories on the factory grounds.
He portrays these women as little better off than prisoners. They are, he shows, trapped in their situations by contracts that require them to pay for their food, lodging and permits as well as fines for work-rules infractions. They are paid too little to meet their needs and obligations. And they cannot quit, he says, because their pay will be withheld for violating contracts that are never explained to them.
"The difficult truth is that we Western consumers must stop deluding ourselves. We cannot any longer demand ultra-cheap toys and expect at the same time to enjoy clear consciences. To think that we can is as naive as starting to believe in Santa Claus again," Clark writes.
Although the information contained in the book's final chapter, "Santa’s Workshop," is upsetting, it is anticlimactic. The most disturbing material in this extensively researched book is presenting in the preceding chapter, "Grabbing Them Young." In it, Clark reveals the lengths to which the big toy companies are going to exploit children's susceptibilities. "Marketing uses every trick and device that can be mustered. The line between selling and entertainment — on TV, in movies, in games, on the Web — is blurred to the point of near invisibility," Clark says.
He is particularly alarmed at the age levels now being targeted by toy marketers. A few years ago, he says, it was generally believed that 5 years old was as low as you could go. Then the target ages descended to 3 years and 2 years. But the descent didn't stop there. "Marketers now grab babies as soon as they are born. . . . It is not in the spirit of philanthropy that 'Teletubbies' gift packs were distributed to newborns in hospitals," Clark writes.
Clark also gives intriguing accounts of:
* The cutthroat competition between the big toy companies such as Hasbro and Mattel and the near extinction of small, innovative toy companies.
* The love-hate relationships among big toy makers and their suppliers and between toy makers and the big-box retailers, most notably Wal-Mart, Target and Toys "R" Us.
* The struggles of small and specialty toy shops to find a niche and survive.
* The origins of Barbie and her wars against Bratz and other dolls.
"The Real Toy Story" rates early installation on the list of best business books of 2007. It should be required reading for parents who don't want to watch their children get brainwashed by the toy industry.
Date-rape drug in Chinese toys. VOA, Nov 9, 2007
Millions of Chinese-made toys have been recalled in the United States, South Africa and Australia after they were found to contain a substance linked to the date-rape drug GHB. A number of children have been taken to hospital after swallowing tiny beads known as Bindeez in Australia and Aqua Dots in the United States. The popular toy has been withdrawn from shops because of fears it may contain a potentially lethal hallucinogenic drug. "When you ingest a significant number of these beads, there is a chemical in the beads, which is then metabolized by the body, into GHB, gammahydroxybutyrate, which causes you to become drowsy initially, and then eventually, you become comatose," explained Dr. Gunja. "This toxin can cause you to become comatose, from which you may either stop breathing or obstruct your airway and potentially cause death, yes."...The firm says in the future, Bindeez beads will be coated with a "foul-tasting ingredient" to keep children from swallowing them. This scare is the latest in a series of toy recalls. In August, almost a million Chinese-made toys were recalled after concerns about lead poisoning.
Mega Toys posts loss, moving more work to China. CBC, Nov 9, 2007
Shares of toymaker Mega Brands Inc. lost one-third of their value Friday after the company lost money in the third quarter and said it will shift more work to China.... Roughly seven million Magnetix buildings sets were the subject of a recall earlier this year after a number of young children swallowed loose parts from the toys. In the wake of the earnings report, Mega Brands shares fell $5.10, closing at $9.95. "Our third-quarter results are not what you — or we — expected them to be," Marc Bertrand, the company's president and chief executive, said during a conference call. "These results are a reflection of the overall industry being soft, the impact on consumer confidence of the repeated recalls by toy manufacturers." Faced with the weak results, the company said it will shut down a manufacturing plant in Woodridge, N.J., next month, consolidate distribution in Seattle and shift more operations to China. The company did not detail how the moves would affect its workforce.
Toy makers' worker treatment, marketing exposed. Columbia Tribune, Jan 27, 2007
CHINA'S SLAVE WORKERS and REMEMBER WHO HU IS and CHINESE TAKE-OVER
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