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  • » 07/12/2010, 00.00


    Chinese toys tainted by lead or made by child labour

    China makes 80 per cent of the world’s toys, but it has come under attack for its poor safety record (toxic materials and unsafe working conditions). Even standards body has been criticised for corruption. Exports drop.
    Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Rampant corruption is undermining safety standards in mainland China's toy factories, which meet 80 per cent of global demand but that could be slapped with an embargo.

    According to the South China Morning Post, Chinese toy manufacturers blame quality control auditors employed to enforce standards for receiving bribes in order to turn a blind eye to the increasingly stringent safety standards demanded by foreign retailers.

    Corruption between manufacturers and auditors is so bad that the International Council of Toy Industries' Care Foundation (ICTI)—a worldwide industry programme to promote ethical manufacturing—has sacked about 20 of the 145 mainland auditors so far this year, or 14 per cent of the total.

    "Bribery and wages are not the only problems," said Ian Anderson, vice-president of the foundation's Asian operations, who spoke yesterday at a seminar. "We have found child labour cases every month."

    The problem is not new. In 2007, the United States banned the sale of toys made in China for toy multinational Mattel because of excess lead in paint used in products for toddlers. At least, two million toys were recalled.

    On 31 October 2007, Guangdong authorities stripped or suspended the manufacturing licence of 764 plants because of safety concerns. They also set a deadline for 690 plants to improve manufacturing and product quality.

    In the last few years, accusations of child labour have also surfaced. In some plants, children are often hired, ostensibly enrolled in early school vocational training in which they are underpaid and forced to work in unsafe conditions.

    About 2,300 factories employing 1.7 million workers worldwide have enrolled in the ICTI programme, a set of best practices that are recognised in the US and in several European countries.

    However, the increasingly tough standards are causing problems of their own.

    Lawrence Chan Wing-luen, chairman of toymaker Wynnewood Corp, who has been in the industry for 37 years, said some manufacturers have been tempted to save money by ensuring positive reports by bribing auditors rather than improving conditions in their factories.

    He is critical of the excessive power such officials exerts, and would like to see greater control exerted on them.

    Chinese manufacturers are afraid that new scandals might negatively impact exports, already reeling from the worldwide crisis. Last year, the mainland exported US.78 billion worth of toys, 10 per cent less than in 2008.

    About 3,000 manufacturers export toys, down from a peak of about 8,500 in 2007 as the industry grappled with toy recalls and safety issues.

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    See also

    11/06/2008 CHINA – EUROPEAN UNION
    Europe on guard against Chinese goods
    EU is only partially satisfied by improved Chinese quality controls. Beijing’s cooperation is forthcoming but better guarantees are needed. Toys, electrical goods, cosmetics and bike tyres are most closely monitored.

    01/06/2010 CHINA
    Chinese growth slowing down again in May, Wen Jiabao voices concerns
    The growth in manufacturing activity is slowing down because of the European debt crisis and government measures to rein in the real estate boom. In Tokyo, Chinese PM Wen warns against the dangers of a second slump, but believes China is on track.

    19/09/2007 CHINA
    Food safety campaign launched
    Food sellers must be able to trace provenance. Authorities impose tighter controls and licensing on local and imported goods. Malaysia rejects tonnes of ‘unsafe’ Chinese food.

    04/10/2011 CHINA
    Global crisis sinking small- and medium-sized business
    Tighter bank lending and need for liquidity are forcing many businesses to borrow with interest rates as high as 180 per cent. The problem is clearly visible in Zhejiang but is expected to spread to Inner Mongolia and Guangdong.

    06/07/2011 CHINA
    China produces the worst milk in the world
    Chinese milk has a low protein level and high levels of bacteria. “What is produced from garbage is garbage,” one critic says. Ordinary people are concerned in the wake of the melamine-tainted milk scandal. The government lowers safety levels because producers cannot meet stricter standards. Some 70 per cent of milk producers would go out of business if forced to meet them.

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