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China's Toy Factories

China has 6,000 toy manufacturers, largely funded by foreign companies and clustered in the Pearl river delta, or Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces.

Chinese workers make half of the world's Mattel Barbie dolls but of the retail price, goes on transport, marketing, retailing and wholesale, and profit for Mattel.

Of the remaining , is shared by the management and transportation in China, 65 cents shared by the raw materials. The remaining 35 cents is earned by producers in China for providing the factory sites, labour and electricity. This leaves the companies with large margins of profit from each toy and the workers with sub-minimal wages.

In response to criticism, toy multinationals have:
- Adopted codes of conduct that prohibit the use of child labour in factories they sign agreements with to make their toys.
- Set up 'Independent' Monitored factories.

However, Human Rights groups say none of these are working because: - Reviews of factory conditions are not conducted by third-party monitors.
- Factories are warned beforehand about reviews.
- Workers in monitored plants are generally reluctant to speak out about abuses for fear of losing their jobs.
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China has one of the worst records related to labour rights violations. It has also recorded some of the worst industrial accidents in the past few years.

In spite of being a signatory of the International Convention on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) which allows the free formation of trade unions, china has only registered trade union,  the All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU), which is said to be the mouth-piece of the communist party. The Xinhua news agency reported, after china ratified the ICESCR, that the right to form or join trade unions of one's choice would be subject to existing Chinese labour laws.

The Labour Law of the People's Republic of China came into effect on the 1st of January 1995.
Article 15 of the Law bans employers from employing children under the age of 16. Article 36 sets the basic work week of up to 44 hours and work day up to 8 hours with at least one day off.

The law does not set a minimum wage and allows this discretion to the employer "according to the characteristics of its production and businesses and economic efficiency".

However, in the hybrid called 'socialist market economy', China's labour law are frequently and grossly violated.

Posted on 2003-01-01

Asian Human Rights Commission
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