As much as we love Christmas and would never hope to make our readers feel guilty for enjoying their time off and presents this year, we feel that it’s important to take a moment to remember where many of the toys and trinkets we receive each year really come from and the people who make them.
In this series of images captured by photographer Michael Wolf back in 2006, we see life on a Chinese toy production line. Crate after crate of doll heads, parts and stuffing; labourers sleeping beneath their workspaces; suspiciously young-looking girls putting together dolls; this isn’t something that most of us would like to think of while strolling through the aisles of Toys R Us.
After seeing these images, it will be difficult not to feel a pang of guilt the next time you visit a toy store or see a child’s happy face as they unwrap a Spongebob Squarepants bubble blower on Christmas morning…
Of course, we could argue that by boycotting toys cheaply made in China, we’d be putting thousands of people out of work, but when you compare the salary and working conditions a western worker receives to those of a Chinese production line worker, it would be futile to suggest that they receive a fair deal. Factor in the fact that these low-paid workers are putting together toys that will be given as gifts to bright-eyed western children this Christmas and the whole situation becomes all the more perverse.
▼The morning wait for work
▼Where Spongebob really comes from
▼ The dolls that so many little girls love so much
▼Workers taking a quick rest beneath their workstations
▼Lunchtime at the factory
▼Everyone’s favourite rodent also makes an appearance
▼The workers’ expressions are a stark contrast to those of the toys they create
▼It’s not just dollies that come from China
▼ Wild west shootouts, also made in China
▼This young lady looks young enough to still be enjoying some of these gifts herself
It’s not our place to say whether this is right or wrong, and we must admit that few of the workers pictured here seem in any way distressed, but Michael’s photographs have certainly made us think hard about the purchases we’ll be making this Christmas.
If you spot an absolute bargain while out shopping this year and are unsure whether to buy it or not, perhaps take a moment to consider the people who put it together before parting with your cash.