Step Inside China's Gruelling Toy Factories [PHOTOS]

There’s a reason people in the U.S. can get children’s toys for so cheap.

About 75% of the world’s toys come from China, where migrant workers are paid an average salary of $US240 a month.

Extreme poverty in China’s rural areas drives many people from the countryside into the cities to look for these types of jobs.

German photographer Michael Wolf has documented what he calls “The Real Toy Story” that shows what workers’ lives are like as they make the world’s toys.

Wolf visited five toy factories in mainland China and has given us permission to share his photos with you here.

Alaina McConnell and Kim Bhasin contributed to this report.

Every day, the workers have to arrive 15 minutes before the regular work shift begins for a work assembly.

Source: Sacom

Their living conditions are prison-like. Up to six people share small, cramped dormitories and up to 50 people share one bathroom.

Source: War On Want

Schools send student workers to these factories to do 'internships.'

Source: Sacom

Rather than learning skills related to their respective disciplines, the students work as frontline production workers.

Source: Sacom

Some factories promise workers a 10-minute break after every two hours of work.

Source: Sacom

Most workers never have benefited from these promises.

Source: Sacom

After the work shift, there's another work assembly that lasts 15 minutes.

Source: Sacom

Even during the 30-minute lunch period, workers must return to the shop floor early to resume production or to attend another meeting. They're not paid for the time spent in these meetings or assemblies.

Source: Sacom

Workers endure long hours six to seven days a week.

Source: Sacom

The overtime work is up to 200 hours a month, which is more than five times the legal limit.

Source: Sacom

Female workers rarely get maternity leave, and with extreme hours and no childcare facilities they often cannot take care of their kids.

Source: War On Want

Many women are forced to send their children to live with family in the countryside.

Toy production involves close contact with chemicals that are incredibly harmful to the workers' health.

This results in alarmingly high levels of occupational disease and work-related injuries. In 2009, about one million people were injured at work and about 20,000 suffered from diseases due to their occupation.

Source: War On Want

Many factory workers are not even required to wear safety equipment, including those who spend extensive amounts of time spray painting toys.

Source: War On Want

Injured workers report that factory management does not show interest in workers' well-being.

Source: Sacom

And companies usually don't pay workers' entitled monthly salary if they're on medical leave.

Source: Sacom

By age 30, female migrants are considered too old for factory work and are discharged.

Source: War On Want

Workers can usually jump from job to job fairly easily, but they typically don't receive a substantial pay increase.

Most Chinese migrant workers do not own the products they spend their lives making.

How did it get like this? Before opening up its economy in the late '70s, the Chinese government issued tight control between rural and urban areas, which encouraged people to migrate to cities illegally.

Source: War On Want

According to War On Want, 'These controls were part of the permit (hukou) system, in which welfare entitlements such as pensions, housing, health, and education were tied to a person's place of birth.'

Source: War On Want

But as China moved toward a market economy, cheap rural labour became integral to the country's growth.

Source: War On Want

The limitations on migration were reduced and about 85 per cent of China's rural poor flocked to the cities in search of employment.

Source: War On Want

However, the restrictions on household registration of the hukou remained as rigid as ever.

Source: War On Want

Migrant workers became unable to access state benefits or protection, despite Chinese laws promising 'equal rights' for all.

Source: War On Want

They became outcasts in the eyes of their government.

Source: War On Want

That's approximately 150 million migrant workers who are completely unprotected.

Source: War On Want

They endure poor working conditions such as excessive and forced overtime, yet they don't even have basic social security benefits or employment contracts.

Source: War On Want

The workers' lack of awareness of their own rights and the Chinese government's unwillingness to address the abuse only perpetuate the system of inequality.

Source: War On Want

Multinational corporations and national factory owners take advantage of the anti-union climate.

Source: War On Want

Despite the terrible working conditions, workers are optimistic that they will be able to gain new skills and create a better life.

Michael Wolf, the photographer of this series, has a display made out of 16,000 toys purchased second-hand from flea markets and stores across California. Each toy has a face and was 'made in China.'

Now take a look at the working conditions in garment factories

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