Factories in china

Are the factories in china as bad as I hear? …apparently the facilities are always hot from the machines, there are some instances where people actually lose limbs, the fumes from the glue are toxic, the worker get paid next to nothing while working long hours, etc.

Someone in the industry told me that this isn’t true for all factories but I’m not sure.

I can’t see myself doing anything other than designing shoes but the factory thing is bothersome.

Does anyone have anything other than spectulation to share?

it varies greatly and not all of the factories are in China. A lot are in Indo, Thailand, Phili, ect.

The ones I’ve been to have always been pretty legit, but I did got to a leather Tannery once that was not so nice.

Overall they are probably better than the factory that made your jeans or T-Shirt, and abpout the same as your consumer electronics or your backpack.

^thank you… but the same in what way?

in other words the foctory that makes your $12 Mach 3 razor is filled with people hand assembling cast parts just like the New Balance factory filled with people hand sewing $60 shoes.

Maybe I’ve just been lucky so far. All of the factories that I’ve been to seemed to be fairly benign environments to work. Nevertheless, factory work itself has always struck me as some of the most repetitive, mechanical, numbing activities ever.
There are definitely some potential hazards to the workers, and accidents can & do happen. Even so, most factories have a perpetual crowd of people waiting outside, hoping for a chance to come in and work.
Many factories are like small towns. The factory that I am going to next week is a campus, with most of the workers living on the premises. They have uniforms, meals, and small rooms with double bunks on each side.
On my first visit I was expecting the worst, and because of my pessimism, I felt extremely guilty & miserable. Later, as we were leaving the campus in the evening, there were tons of workers out on the grounds. There were all still in uniform, their team leaders were barking in megaphones. Everyone was apparently having a good time. I asked what was happening & was told that they were having a foot race! There were many other groups involved in their own activities, and there was different pop music blaring out of boomboxes every 20 feet or so. It was a good experience, as I was beginning to fear that the workers lived like slaves. Most of the workers at this particular factory are pretty young, late teens to late twenties on average. The factory is about 2 1/2 hours from the city, so instead of trying to commute they simply stay all week & return home on the weekends.
I don’t know how much the cost of room & board skews their wages.
I have been a shoe designer for 7 years, and I still have some misgivings about visiting China. It is so different than the U.S. The differences in the workplace are as different as the cultures of democracy & communism.
So relax, the ethical struggle you are facing is only how to reconcile the cultural differences that gave us 40 years of cold war!
Deciding not to be a shoe designer will have no effect whatsoever on the labor practices in China. Deciding to be a shoe designer may give a few of those guys outside the factory gates a job.
Is that too much information?

I have been to two factories in china. One was a oustole factory and the other is a footwear factory. both were clean and all workers were of legal age. on the lines it was hot though-but from the ceilings there were like 4ft x 4ft fans to cool down the area. no one had there fingers chopped while i was there-but I am sure just like at any other job where you are dealing with this type of machine there will be injuries.

problem is that without a workers union in china they wouldn’t get any benefits.

I think though all factories are different and alot of what goes on is also due to the governement. it is not just nike or adidas’s faults here the governemnt should be held responsible also.

below are some links about factories and what are the status of them. I found the information pretty interesting-



this one is also good just takes a lil more searching:


hope this helps-


you have to remember to put the pay into context and understand there cost of living. there is more info on the links about it. but alot of people try and compare what they make an hr. to the workers in china and they feel like they are making nothing to do anything with-when in SOME cases it is just right to live with. not all factories give fair pay though-and that is why most times the workers work late is so that they can make the extra money.

from what i have found out when talking with some of the workers in the sample rooms is that they just want better condistions and benifits thats all they dont want factories to be shut down-they would say they are happy-They just wanted a lil more.

When i was over there i thought that it was cool that the one factory had a basketball hoop-and actually that factory had a basketball team that would play against other factories. they asked me if i would play with them-but i was leaving the following day-would have been fun–

Thanks to everyone who took the time to share. The info was helpful…and appreciated.

But at least, they can earn some money to support their family. It is better than stay at hometown without doing anything. Being a farmer in China, the income is terrible.

Although I haven’t been to footwear factories in China because I design other types of products, I can comment on factories in general based on 19 years of Orient travel.

Most major retailers (Target, Wal-Mart, etc.) will not deal with any suppliers until they have audited all of their factories, including contract factories. It’s a rigorous inspection that includes:

  • Age of workers
  • Pay scale and overtime documentation
  • Dormitory conditions
  • Factory conditions (safety, etc.)
  • Human rights (slave & prison labor)

You get three cracks at passing the inspection then you’re out. No major retailer wants to end up on the front page of the NYT or on 60 Minutes because of child labor allegations. They’ve decided to step up and become the world’s enforcer. Of course there are flaws in this system, but I personally think it’s working. I’ve seen MANY factories clean up their acts because they know all of the inspections are unannounced.

I hope this helps.

It’s good to hear about you guys visiting factories and reporting observations of workers. Is there anyone who has seen not-so good things on their China visits?

If you are a student, this organization might be something you would be interested in:

and http://www.fairlabor.org/
They work with university leadership to make sure products sold on campuses all over the US are made fairly, including the last remaining university logo products that are still made in the US.

and not to forget: http://www.nologo.org/

Also, most footwear companies have a corporate responsibility report that you can hunt down on their website- definitely worth checking out. Most of them state that because they don’t own their factories, they do not have complete control over the conditions they are produced, but are making efforts to improve transparency.

Lots of gray areas, globalization has pluses and minuses…

ok you guys…for me i have been to every kind of factories…and man i got to tell you. if you are a shoe designer please keep a open mind because some are shocking and for those who are close minded dont even try to understand because i know most designers dont. all they think about is preety design adn dont think about all the people that produce your shit. even in sample stages.

ok top natch factories are all run and own by taiwanese such as pawchin. they make shoes for all the top brands. everyone knows who they are and all they do is stuff for top brands. these are huge factories and the pay is good and clean and all run on western standerds. nike use them always and so does all the big brands. they are huges withe hundreds of lines and the workers are all treated very well and paied lot of money by china standered or local standered. it’s a sight to see thousands of girls and guys stitching your patterns.

then you have the china own with taiwan management. these make shoes for third world countries and also for wallmart and payless and low cost guys. big orders, not as good but still clean and workers are treated will and they have their own big china brands. we are talking they produce like 1 million pairs a week. and they must pass all human right guide lines and are inspected regulerly by people from walmart or us customer in order to comply with laber laws. they are as big as the taiwanese and will one day replace them. one time they were produceing this shoe that smell like different food…man the whole place smell like a buffet line…HAHAHA

now we get to the nitty griity…the little shops…with one or 2 lines…mostly less then 10. these are mostly use by tradeing agents for real low cost crap they ship to third world export or low china market…and iut can get real low…
no control what so ever and it is hot and dirty and no venting. girls expose to uv light and bakeing all day…heavy glue smell. how ever no minors here…some does look preety damn young but what the heck you can never tell a asian women’s real age just by looking.
also them dump all the excess crap into the local river or burn them on open pit. i have seen freaking fire pits buring all the crap and cover the whole city in smoke and they always do that at night to avoid the cops…like the cops do anything to stop it…and man have you ever seen a river full of eva and leather scrap…it is a sight to see…i swear i can walk over the river. it gets bad…had to use a mask.

i will cover the sole factory later and the tannery

I have not been to any factories which make shoes, but from what I recall, one of our suppliers told me that the major ones are on Dongguan - which is in southeast China. I went to an injection molding facility there which was pretty nice. No chopped fingers - workers seemed reletavely healthy.

On the other hand, I was in a smaller injection molding facility in Shenzhen which was pretty awful. The workers just seemed so sad- all of them had this look of distress on their faces. The “campus” as one poster called it, was kept in control by armed gaurds and a razor wired gate. I had a conversation with an english speaking person who worked in a secretarial position in the office about traveling. I asked her if she had ever been to Hong Kong (about 45 minutes from her office)- and she said no. She had never been outside of her providence. She was 29 years old.

I have also been to a bunch of candy factories… all of those have been very nice. I think it was because it was food product and needed to abide by all of the western guidelines.

The most bizarre thing is that all of these factories in SE China are run by people from HK. They all live mainland during the week, and then go to HK and hang out with their families during the weekend. I asked one of the owners why he doesn’t move his family to China- it just seemed easier and he would be able to see them more. This conversation was in his Chinese made car (imports are extremely expensive there- communism…) going 75mph driving into incoming traffice with people on bikes everywhere. As I was holding onto the “oh shit” handle, sweating bullets (as I always do in China as it seems apparent that there are virtually no rules to the road- anything goes) he told me that “life is cheap here- it is not a place for my children.” I was speaking with someone about how much the government provided labor makes. It was something like 2 rmb an hour (even though they have their living expenses paid) which is like .11 USD.

China is a pretty wild place- I could go on and on.

i have been in the footwear industry for a while and have seen lots of factories of all kinds (both Guangdong province and also Fujian province).

From what I have seen, most factories are much better than the rep they get from lots of people trying to make hype.

Not to say that ALL factories in china a great, as I am sure there are lots of below standard workplaces in the US, but anyh reputable fty will have very good conditions, and i’ve even visited some factories that look so clean and organized, they look better than my office here in europe!

The thing that bothers me the most about lots of the talk about factories, pay, conditions, etc. is the lack of any knowledge about the relative cost of living and general conditions in the country discussed. I dont have the exact figures, and I’m not saying that fty pay/work is fantastic, but you have to put it in context to the rest of living expenses and conditions. For example, a super nice 4 star hotel in china cost about $50 that would be over $400 in the US… you can get food on the street in Shenzhhen with a full bowl of rice, meat and veggies for about $1.00.

just something to consider.


PS. if you want to see some pics INSIDE some factories in china, i’ve got some on my blog, first pullover and lots more coming up soon.

first pullover
footwear design/development blog[/img]

ok. yes cost of living is cheap…i mean my hotel bill cold go as low as $20 per night or lower in a 3 or 4 star hotel…food is dirt cheap…some are preety good. one time i had to milk my own cow to get milk for breakfeast…no joke. i did do that. and you can have a girl for the whole night for only $100 or less. depend on where you go but in shanghi stuff are like western rates. some has special talents…HAHAHA
funny thing about factories in china. we had one factory in shanghi that was owned by a US invesment corp (oh by the way nike dont own any factories…they just out source and same goes for all the big brands). and even they did not past inspection by costco group.
oh by the way the guys are not hong kong(westerners can never tell the difference …they think they live in hong kong they are hong kongese)…they all are taiwan guys living in that area because of closer to factory…hong kongs guys are doing other stuff other then shoes now…all the big factory all taiwanese not one is own by hong kong perosn (there is a reason why)…taiwanese have beat out the koreans and japanese. and also main land chinese distrust hong kong … they dont trust kagi people(people in hong kong). that is why they use all taiwanese management and agents.

ok move on to injection , heat weld and sole shops. now these shops could be mom and pop shop out of the gorage or large shops employing thousands. labor is low and dont require a lot because it is all machines. it is hot and unpleasent at most places. most are small…i seen a korean shop run by just 2 people pumping out nike id parts from just 2 injection machine. i have also seen guys in g string smokeing a cig and loading and pulling sole and sole molds by hand no glove…and those are heavy chunks of metal. remenber that each sole color is pulled by hand , not machines…so if you designers think you can put tons of different colors on one outsole…you have to think there is a guy with a pick takeing out each color and put a new color layer in. so are you gona work him like a dog becuase you think it is preety design…and the injected eva factory is a site to see too. cool machines…pop like popcorn…HAHHA. hard to do…need a lot of caculation to get the right size. alsso pu mold shops stinks like hell…dont know how those guys handel it and tpr mold shops is the same…we call them circle jerkers because the mold is set up in a big circuler line. cut weld shops are dangerouse on some shops…once i almost got killed by the shock and heat.almost burn my hands off. plastic injectsion is cool but some are now part of the sole shops.

now leather tannery…if you have strong stomach you can go see this…
you know 90 percent of the leather material are from the USA. we eat way too much beef…all the hids get sent to asia for processing. there are svereal way of doing this. mostly is by chemecals and taning in big drums. i have seen they hang out thousands of hids to process…it is a very strange sight and it stink like a MF. i almost threw up…i think most of you will. then there the old fashion chinese style…use magets to eat the fats…real gross…thet skin is like movine around like it’s alive…either way you will gross out…and if you ask your agent to see a leather tannery some time they will think you are strange…even they cant take the smell.

for you young designers … you have got to see it for your self…you have to breath in and take a seat at the stitching station or pull the molds to know what it feels like. then in the back of your head you will know how hard people have to work to make your stuff.