Santa’s Workshop: Inside China’s Slave Labour Toy Factories

This Christmas, few people probably gave any thoughts to where the toys they bought have come from. If they saw Santa’s Workshop however, they may have thought twice before filling their kid’s Christmas stockings.

Santa’s Workshop: Inside China’s Slave Labour Toy Factories is a Swedish documentary which looks at how and where the toys we buy in the West are manufactured. In particular, they look at the Swedish market with a focus on huge companies such as ICA and Coop and how their supposed ethical standards are violated by Chinese sweatshops.

The filmmakers go to Hong Kong (where they are at least legally allowed to film) where they find that many toy manufacturers have left and gone to China where factories pay workers menial wages for working 12 hour days. Union activity is banned and as one of the factory managers says, 90% of the workers are women because they are “easier to manage”. Salaries are so low, that workers can hardly survive in the outside world. In the end, most of them live within the confines of the factory walls in virtual prison cell accommodation or even sleep on the factory floor itself. Added to this is the chronic environmental pollution that the factories cause by pumping sewage into local rivers.

The documentary features secret interviews and filming within China’s factories as well as a Christian organisation that is one of the few fighting for the rights of  workers. As one of the Swedish commercial agents summarises at the end, the problem they have found is that if they do increase prices of toys to enable workers to get a fairer wage, consumers stop buying the products. I wonder however if Swedish consumers are truly aware of some of the conditions the toys they are buying for their kids are produced in.

The question is, if they were, would it make any difference? After all, it is only by pressure from consumers at the end of the day that will bring any kind of change. Are we all so desperate to save a few euros or dollars that we don’t care how goods are produced? I’d like to believe that most people do care and Santa’s Workshop is a good starting point for considering this moral dilemma in more depth. This brave and disturbing documentary deserves to be seen widely.



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