Magazine article New Internationalist

Toys R Them: Asian Workers on the Cheap

Magazine article New Internationalist

Toys R Them: Asian Workers on the Cheap

Article excerpt

Toys R Them

Asian workers on the cheap

CHILDREN'S toys are a political mine - field, as many parents already know: Barbie suggests women are bimbos; toy guns reward aggressive behaviour. But there are other considerations that are equally if not more pressing: a toy bought as a child's gift may have been made on the other side of the globe by harried, underpaid, women shift workers in unsafe surroundings.

European children receive on average 'symbol not transcribed'240 worth of toys each year while US kids clock up a whopping 'symbol not transcribed'310 worth. Though the toys are made for big - name companies such as Mattel and Hasbro, the work is subcontracted to Asian companies which undercut others by paying lower wages. According to the Catholic Institute for International Relations (CIIR) over 75 per cent of toys sold in Britain are made in Asia by a workforce that is predominantly female.

Concerns were first raised after a fire in a Thai factory in May last year killed 188 workers because fire exits were locked. Since 1993 at least 250 Asian toy workers have been killed and hundreds more injured in industrial accidents.

But safety isn't the only issue in the forefront of workers' minds. Take Duan (not her real name) who works in a Thai factory producing Disney merchandise for Mattel. She is paid below the estimated minimum survival wage, lives in one room with her husband in a cement dormitory building next to the factory and works a 13 - hour day, six days a week. …

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