I’ve found myself living in a Chinese joystick factory for a month. It specialises in supplying games peripheries for global companies. After a week of mingling with migrant workers and factory managers, of dining in empty hotel lobbies and crammed workers’ canteens, I was finally allowed to scratch my itch and peek at the business end.
In my head, I’d always pictured grids of booming machinery filled with pre-determined seating areas for drone-like uniformed men and women. This was more like a half-filled warehouse and the only things that seemed to move was the conveyor belt and fans to keep cool. Everyone was doing his or her own specialised part… perhaps almost too quietly and orderly.
Inside the supervising office, the vice-president quietly spoke about his plans for downscaling the operation. He told me that 2011 is the harshest time for the whole toy industry, with most of their customers from the US and EU downsizing July orders for a poorer Christmas.
“Soft toys are being hit the worst. Many of the smaller companies have disappeared altogether. We’re now having to take risky smaller orders and at higher regulations.”, explained management. The factory’s main saviours are developing countries such as India, Brazil and Russia. They have to accommodate to a different taste but sometimes can also sneakily flog some of their older products.