The Dark Side of Christmas: The Impact on Sweatshops

2016.12.17.Ukaegbu.mainIt’s not elves, but underpaid Chinese workers working around the clock that will enable you to unwrap your presents. (Photo: Danijel-James Wynyard / Flickr)

Television screens are filled with Christmas advertising, propagating the apparent need to buy something, and above all electronics, apparel, toys — the most popular Christmas gifts. The festive countdown is well underway.

Three points specifically define the ‘festive’ season: advertisements and commercialisation, shopping and spending, and increased revenue for the Western economy. Data from Capgemini and new in the UK‘s industry association for e-retail, the Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG), reveal that in 2015, British retailers took in over £24 billion (roughly $30 billion) during the Christmas period alone, more than the entire GDP of countries like Nepal or Honduras. This spending craze is linked with advertisement and the increasing consumerism promoted by mass-, and now social media.

US discount events, hyperbolically labelled ‘Black Friday’ and Cyber Monday’, have been transposed across Europe, with the periods before Christmas and between Christmas and New Year’s Day becoming the busiest spending times in our annual calendars.

Over last year’s discount weekend, British consumers spent a whopping £3.3 billion ($4.16 billion). Masses took to the internet to buy, spending £968 million on Cyber Monday alone, causing the websites of large UK retailers, including Argos, Tesco and John Lewis, to crash. Struggling to cope with the surge of online purchased goods, courier firms imposed daily caps on the number of orders accepted from online retailers.

Real World Elves

The imagery of cheerful elves making gifts in Santa’s workshop is far from the reality, and contributes to hide from our sight the conditions of workers in the factories that make what we so enthusiastically buy. Some 80 per cent of the world’s toys are manufactured in China, with just about every popular children’s toy bearing a ‘made in…

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