Since the Asian financial crisis of 1997, China’s economy has accelerated at a double-digit rate. Today, 220 million migrant workers—the backbone of the country’s growth—live and work in China’s cities. Although they have moved to the cities in search of a better life, many of these workers quickly discover that city life is more difficult than they imagined.
Migrants, mostly young people with little education and no skill training, often end up employed in factories, where they are unprepared for the work environment and unaware of their labor rights. As a result, many become transient, moving from job to job in search of higher salaries and better benefits.
“There is a high turnover rate in the factories. Every day, workers leave, and the factories have to hire and train replacements,” says EDC’s Wen-Chia Chang. “Even those factories that comply with labor laws, provide a safe and healthy working environment, and offer incentives to workers face the same challenges, and they are eager to find a solution.”
Toward that goal, a new pilot project is bringing together a range of partners, including the Chinese government, factories, public training centers, and international nongovernmental organizations, to create a model to develop the capability and well-being of migrant workers. The partnership is based on the results of an assessment conducted in 2008 by EDC, with the Foreign Capital Project Management Center State Council Poverty Alleviation Office in China (FCPMC), in eight Adidas and Disney supplier factories in the Shanghai and Guangdong areas.
The two-year public-private partnership builds bridges between public training schools in rural provinces and factories in the city. It enables schools to assess the workers’ skills and train them with information on life in the cities and factories prior to migration.
“The involvement of so many partners makes the project challenging and, ultimately, enriching,” says Chang. “We constantly look for the common ground among partners and believe that we can find a win-win solution for all.”
“The project aims to create an effective and sustainable recruitment mechanism that can be scaled up and replicated to other industries,” she adds. “We believe that this will benefit millions of migrant workers and contribute to the country’s growth.”
This project is funded through 2010 by Adidas, GTZ, and Oxfam.
Originally published on July 13, 2009