MDB Insight Blog


Santa’s Magic Workforce

#WednesdayswithMDBInsight – As we near the celebration of Christmas we are reminded that every business must deal with operational costs - from electricity to travel costs and workforce matters – yes, even Santa, Inc.

Over the years, Santa’s operations have been the subject of considerable curiosity. All those toys are, of course, made by a workforce of elves and the cost of this jolly operation isn’t something we can pinpoint with certainty. But without magic, Santa would need a workforce to make and deliver his products (presents) on time. Here are some intriguing notions of what that might entail.

Last year, one source (True Luxury Travel) put Santa’s production budget at an estimated $41.6 billion US to cover the cost of making about 14.4 billion toys. They estimated the associated workforce cost would translate into $1.9 billion US for an elf workforce of roughly 130,000 helpers (depending on an elf’s productivity rate and length of workday). 

Another source (MoneyWise) tallied Santa’s annual toy production costs at a more modest $24.3 billion US plus shipping (another $683 million US) and suggested a workforce of 50,000 elves. Add room and board and health insurance for that elf workforce – another $577.5 million US – and miscellaneous costs, for a grand total of $25.6 billion US. For context, they point out that’s more than the GDP of Iceland or El Salvador.

When all is said and done, this may be a job best left to the legendary guy who likes to slide down chimneys. After all, he's got access to all sorts of holiday magic that must reduce his costs considerably. That said, perhaps your newfound knowledge of the value of what he does will inspire you to put out a few extra cookies for Santa this year.

In a tongue-in-cheek examination of Santa’s workforce issues in 2017, Pacific Standard’s Greg Rosalsky wondered “Are the elves free to leave the North Pole? And if not, just what kind of society has Santa built at the top of the world?”. Citing labour shortages (in a remote, frigid location) and the economic dynamics of slavery along with “empirical evidence” from the movie Elf, Rosalsky concludes things are fine for the magical workers whose efforts bring joy to so many each year.

In the movie's opening monologue, Papa Elf (played by Bob Newhart) seeks to educate viewers on certain "elfisms." One interesting "elfism," he says, is "there are only three jobs available to an elf." These are "making shoes at night," baking cookies "in a tree," and (drum roll, please)—"the show," "the big dance"—to "build toys in Santa's workshop."

In case you’re wondering, True Luxury Travel noted that Santa’s annual budget also included about $1.8 billion US to pay for utilities at the chilly North Pole, rent for his very large workshop ($1.2 million US), reindeer care ($31,008 US) and sleigh maintenance ($1,780 US) for a whopping grand total of more than $45.3 billion US in 2018.

For more on Santa’s elves, check out:

Our MDB Insight family has much to be thankful for this holiday season, and tremendous optimism for the new year ahead. We are fortunate to do work we’re passionate about and to engage with clients and communities across Canada and the U.S. on projects that make a genuine difference.

We’ll be taking a break from our regular weekly #WednesdayswithMDBinsight posts to focus on time with family and friends. Watch for new posts starting again in January.

Here’s wishing you the very best of this magical season from all of us at MDB Insight.


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