July 15, 2008

Profile of a "Model Chinese Factory"

A Relatively Better Factory

But it is still a hard life, with long hours, low wages and primitive living conditions

Kai Da Toy factory
Yi Cun Industrial Zone
Zhong Tang Town, Dongguan City
Guangdong Province, China

Phone:  (86) 769-8881-1248

  • Hong Kong owned
  • 7,000 employees;  60 percent women;  will not hire anyone over 45 years of age;
  • Major clients:  Hasbro, Mattel, Disney
  • This Kai Da toy factory has been certified by the International Council of Toy Industries (ICTI).

The Kai Da factory in Dongguan City (unrelated to the Kai Da Toy factory in Shenzhen) is certainly among the better, or top tier, toy factories in China.  But this does not mean that the factory is without violations or that the workers are paid anywhere near a subsistence level wage.



Hours:  Workers at the factory 74 hours a week, while toiling 63 hours

During the peak season, which lasts six months, from May through October, the routine shift is 13 hours a day, Monday through Friday, with a nine-hour shift on Saturday.

Routine 13-Hour Shift
(8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.)

8:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon (Work, 4 hours)
12:00 noon — 1:00 p.m. (Lunch, 1 hour)
1:00 p.m. — 5:00 p.m.  (Work, 4 hours)
5:00 p.m. — 6:00 p.m. (Supper, 1 hour)
6:00 p.m. — 9:00 p.m. (Overtime, 3 hours)

On Saturday, the workers put in a nine-hour shift from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., with an hour break for lunch.

This means the workers are at the factory 74 hours a week, while working 63 hours, including 23 hours of overtime a week.  This exceeds China's legal limit—of no more than 36 hours a month--on permissible overtime by 178 percent.

In the injection molding and press casting departments, there are two 12-hour shifts, as these departments run 24 hours a day.  During the 12-hour shift, the workers receive only two half-hour meal breaks.  The workers take turns eating, as the machines are kept running at all times.

  • Workers arriving five minutes late will have money deducted from their overtime wages.  Workers arriving 30 minutes late will be prohibited by security guards from entering the factory.  
  • After a three-month probation period, workers are hired on a one-year contract.  By law, for one-year contracts the probation period should not exceed one month.
  • Workers need an "Off Post" card to use the bathroom.  There are two such passes for a production line of 40 to 50 people.  Going to the toilet is discouraged.
  • Workers are not paid for legal holidays such as May Day, National Day and Spring Festival. Illegally, these are treated as unpaid holidays.

Wages:  Workers paid 55 to 57 cents an hour

In March 2008, the workers earned 658.20 RMB to 690 RMB a month, or $94.78 to $99.36.

658.20 RMB per Month 

  690 RMB per Month

 55 cents an hour  

 57 cents an hour

 $4.37 a day (8 hours) 

  $4.59 a day (8 hours)

 $21.87 a week (40 hours)

 $22.93 a week (40 hours)

  $94.78 a month

  $99.36 a month

    $1,137.38 a year 

  $1,192.33 a year

For working a 63-hour week, the workers earned at most $42.60, which is about five percent below what they were legally owed.  They should have earned at least $44.95.

As of April 2008, the wages were raised to 770 RMB a month, or $110.88.

 770 RMB per Month

 64 cents an hour

 $5.12 a day (8 hours)

 $25.59 a week (40 hours)

 $110.88 a month

 $1,330.57 a year

  • Each production line is assigned a mandatory quota by management. The third time an assembly line fails to reach the goal, they will have to continue working until they do so, without earning the overtime premium.  Despite fans, the assembly departments can get quite hot and the workers sweat as they toil.
  • The factory illegally withholds one month's wages:  The workers are paid their previous month's wages on the 25th of the following month.  This is illegal, since by law the workers must be paid no later than the 7th of the following month.

  • Ten workers share each dorm room, sleeping in narrow, double-level bunk beds.  The workers drop old sheets over the beds for privacy.  There is little other furniture in the room, at most a chair, a table, a small TV.  There are two fans.  There is no bathroom or water in the room.

There is a public toilet on each floor—but they also lack hot water.  Workers wishing to bathe with hot water have to walk down several flights of stairs to fetch hot water in a small plastic bucket, which they bring back to their room to take a sponge bath.

In the morning and evening, the public bathroom is very crowded.  Not everyone fits in.  Again, the workers fill small plastic buckets with water in order to brush their teeth and wash in the hallways.

Couples who live "off campus"—outside the dorm—can only afford to rent a small one-room apartment.  The room is typically furnished with just a bed.  There is no other furniture, and only sometimes a TV.



  • The workers say the cafeteria is clean and the rice is free.  However, the workers also report that the food is cooked without oil and is basically tasteless. 
  • As worker dissatisfaction is relatively high, there is also a high turnover rate.  As a result, the factory is hiring workers all year round.  Due to the turnover rate, there have been several recalls of defective toys.  For example, the workers report two Hasbro toy recalls, one in November 2007 and another in March 2008 of toy guns (Model numbers 04007 and 04008).


Despite being at the factory 74 hours a week, the workers cannot save money.

Some workers save $3.32 a week, others nothing.

"I can't make ends meet every month.  Meals cost 400-500 RMB ($57.60-$72.00).  Cigarettes cost around 200 RMB ($28.80).  Shopping—clothing, toilet articles, etc.—cost 300-400 RMB ($43.20-$57.60).  In addition, hanging out with friends and the cell phone also costs money.  So I can't save any money each month.

"I make a little over 1,100 RMB ($158.40) a month.  If it's not enough, I would borrow from co-workers and pay them back when I am paid later.

" Workers sharing an apartment typically don't have any furniture other than beds.  They choose to live off campus because they can have more freedom.  A single room costs around 230-280 RMB ($33.12-40.32) a month.  a one-bedroom apartment costs about 300 RMB a month ($43.20)."

Another woman worker told us:

"I plan to leave the factory and return home next month.  I have worked in this factory for two years and no longer want to stay on this job... The main reason is that I can't save money working here.  The salary is only enough to cover my expenses every month.

"I make about 1,200 RMB ($172.80) a month.  Dining costs about 400 RMB ($57.60) per month, and including snacks and groceries about 200-300 RMB ($28.80-$43.20).  Toiletries and other necessities cost about 100 RMB ($14.40) a month.  Clothes and shoes cost sometimes 300 RMB ($43.20) and sometimes more.  Telephone fees are about 50 RMB ($7.20) a month.  I don't know where the rest of hundreds are spent.  Every month, by the time of getting paid, I have at most 400 RMB ($57.60) in my pocket and sometimes as little as 100 RMB ($14.40).  If it is a guy, the money would have been all spent much earlier.

  • There is a "union" at the factory, which even has "worker representatives."  But no workers could say what the union actually does—other than organizing social events, such as basketball games or sight seeing—and so the workers do not attend "union" meetings.
Link to "Nightmare on Sesame Street"