CHILDREN working in a Shenzhen sweatshop that makes toys for McDonald's have told the Sunday Morning Post how they work from 7am to 11pm and earn barely enough in a day to buy a Big Mac Meal in Hong Kong. They are paid 24 yuan (about HK$23) a day for working shifts up to 16 hours, seven days a week, packaging the toys. The children's daily wage would be just enough to get them a Hamburger Happy Meal ($15) and McFlurry ice-cream ($8) or a Filet O-fish Meal ($18) and a drink at McDonald's here. The youngsters admit they lie about their ages to get jobs in the factory, where workers estimate up to 20 per cent of employees are under the mainland legal age for workers of 16. But they say only rudimentary checks are done on their ID cards by the factory to make sure they are old enough to work. Last week, a Post reporter mingled with workers in the guarded factory complex and interviewed youngsters who worked there. Each youngster sleeps in a 200 to 300-square-foot room with 15 other workers. They are charged 60 yuan a month for accommodation. There are eight double-deck wooden beds, all without mattresses. They are charged a further two yuan for each meal. Workers are given one or two days off a month but do not leave the industrial district in which the factory is based because they cannot afford to apply for the $350 temporary-stay permits that allow them to leave Shenzhen. Most of the underage workers come from Gaozhou, Guangdong province, about 40km west of Shenzhen, where the factory's management has a close link with local schools. One of them, An Luping, 14, said she had been working at the factory since early July and had used a forged identity card to get her job. 'I am not old enough to work,' she admitted. 'How did I get here? I used a forged identity card. Many people do this. I used a fake name - Yang Li. She is my friend living in my village who is 17 years old.' Like many of the mainland child workers, Luping is forced to shoulder the family burden at a young age. 'My family is poor. It can't afford to keep four children.' Another girl, Ma Bei, 16, came from Guizhou province at the beginning of last year when she was 15. 'I used my sister's ID when I joined,' she said. 'When my sister was younger, she also used our relative's ID when joining another firm.' Bei has been packaging Hello Kitty dolls for the past few months for McDonald's restaurants but did not realise the doll was a famous Japanese cartoon cat until a picture was shown to her. When she saw it she exclaimed: 'Oh! That's the cute panda I'm working on.' Despite the long working hours, Bei considered herself lucky as she was now working in a factory with air-conditioning. 'There is another building just 30 metres away from here which is also owned by our factory. I used to work there until March this year. It was like hell. It was hot and noisy.' Underage workers graduate to jobs like those of Li Hungyan, who is over 18, who sprays fur on to the Hello Kitty dolls. 'The machines are very noisy, the air is thick too. But we are not given any face masks or ear plugs. I don't know what's in the air and I get allergies.' Pointing to her arms she said: 'Look - there is a red rash all over my arms.' She said she found it hard working overtime until 2am. 'It is very harsh. And I get only 300 to 400 yuan a month.' The Christian Industrial Committee said it visited the firm on July 7 and found there were more than 160 children aged 12 to 15 with summer jobs. All the children came from two schools in Gaozhou. Wang Hanhong, 12, told committee investigators: 'My parents did not want me to come. I cried and begged them to let me because I wanted to see the outside world. My family has three other children, but they are all studying. I want to earn some money to help my parents survive.' Although it was already 7pm when the group interviewed the 12-year-old boy, he said he and his classmates still had to get back to work and did not expect to finish until at least 9pm. When asked about the allegations last night, McDonald's said it viewed violations of their employment code with concern. Their supplier - Simon Marketing (Hong Kong), which contracts out production to City Toys Ltd - said regular checks were made on the staff to ensure the code was adhered to. 'Based on our recent unannounced audit, City Toys was found in full compliance with the McDonald's code of conduct,' said spokeswoman Vivian Foo. All the names in this report have been changed to protect the identities of the children.