Why going beyond audit is the smart move
The bar has been raised and there is an increasing expectation for businesses to embrace their responsibility towards the workers in their supply chains in the form of sustainability programmes. In this article you will learn why supporting migrant parent workers is the smart move.
Efforts that matter
When the Center for Child Rights & Corporate Social Responsibility (CCR CSR) visited a toy factory in China a few years ago, one moment stuck in our memory: that of a mother who had left her children behind to work in a toy factory. While her situation was far from unusual, what was so memorable about her was the fact that when we asked her whether she can bring a toy home to her own child, the idea seemed utterly absurd to her. Her reaction thus became an emblem of a larger issue: the fact that workers are all too often seen and treated as just that – workers, not parents.
The story of China’s migrant parent workers is complex and deeply personal. In China, an estimated 247 million people have left home in search of work, with approximately 61 million children left behind. The move means many parents only see their children once a year, leaving them worried, distracted and guilt-stricken at the workplace.
This long-term separation often results in strained relationships, exacerbated further by parents’ inability to communicate with their children effectively. In the workplace, this situation can translate into high turnover rates and a demotivated, unsatisfied workforce.
Voices from a father in Sichuan Province southern China
“I want to provide my children with a better education. That’s why workers like us all left our hometowns to work in factories. Do I love my children? Do I feel guilty? Yes, I would love to spend every minute with them, but there are several reasons why that’s just not possible”
Moving into the future
Numerous years have passed since we spoke to the mother at the toy factory and CCR CSR has seen progress in terms of brands and suppliers willing to invest in parent-related programmes. The days of businesses merely conducting audits are over. The bar has been raised and there is an increasing expectation for businesses to embrace their responsibility towards the workers in their supply chains in the form of sustainability programmes. This is especially true in China, where migration trends are shifting and workers are no longer as keen to leave behind their families and migrate long distances to work in factories. At the same time, China’s working age population is shrinking and labour costs are rising. This means that in order for factories to remain competitive, they must rethink their hiring strategies and place a stronger emphasis on retention: supporting migrant parent workers – who make up a huge proportion of the workforce – is a key place to start.
One particularly successful program that highlights the tremendous impact that can be achieved is Child Friendly Spaces. In 2016, CCR CSR piloted the program in 5 factories allowing many of the workers to spend the whole summer with their children for the very first time. The program was so successful that by the summer of 2019, 76 factories in China had invested in such a center. What is so attractive about the program? For one, parent workers genuinely feel like the factories care about them and understand their needs as parents. This in turn has positively impacted everything from retention, worker satisfaction and worker-management relationships to an increased willingness among workers to recommend the factory to their friends and relatives.
Bridging the gap
11 year old boy Rongxuan and his mother sharing their experiences being apart, and the benefits of Child Friendly Spaces in factories.
Digitizing migrant parent training
In addition to CFS, migrant parent training is also an effective way of supporting migrant parent workers either as a stand-alone initiative or alongside programmes like CFS. Accessible to factories large and small, CCR CSR’s migrant parent training focuses on improving parents’ remote communication skills so that they can have better-quality communication with their children and learn about their children’s needs. Excitedly, thanks to a collaboration with Quizrr, the training has now been digitized and is available on all Quizrr tablets. Through, quite literally, the swipe of a finger, suppliers can demonstrate their commitment towards their workers’ personal wellbeing while at the same time create positive impact for their business including improvements in worker retention.
In short, much can be done to offset the challenges found in China’s manufacturing sector, and going beyond audits to implement migrant parent support programmes is a very good place to start.
Want to know more about CCR CSR?
This article was written by Ellen Schliebitz, Director of Communications at CCR CSR. For more information about CCR CSR and how to start implementing migrant parent support programmes in your supply chain, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.