January 2022 Updates
With Chinese New Year just weeks away, factories we spoke to in recent days are very busy meeting the deadlines of overall production tasks. However, as several cities have seen resurgences in COVID-19 outbreaks, several rounds of all-staff COVID testing have been launched at factories in Dongguan, Shenzhen and other manufacturing hubs, which may disrupt the production schedule.
Impact on workers and families
As the Spring Festival approaches, at least seven provinces and municipalities across China have issued notices to encourage local residents to avoid travel and stay put during the holidays. As The Centre's previous research has highlighted, most migrant parents can only see their children once or twice a year on average, and most of them who do not live with their children see Spring Festival as a precious opportunity to visit home. However, due to current pandemic control measures, most workers may not be able to return home to see their children.
According to the Education Bureau of Shenzhen Municipality, from January 11, all out-of-school childcare centres in the city have stopped providing trusteeship services. It is expected that other high-risk areas or medium risk areas will follow suit and close all childcare centres, which may create challenges for parent workers and increases the risk of children being left alone at home unattended.
Measures to support migrant workers
Some cities said they will offer subsidies to those who are willing to stay put during the holidays ranging from 500 Yuan ($78) to 1,000 Yuan ($156).
Hefei, the city in East China's Anhui province, announced that it will give 1,000 Yuan to eligible non-local residents working in the city to encourage them to stay. Enterprises in Ningbo, the city in East China's Zhejiang province, are encouraged to take measures such as granting subsidies, ensuring accommodation, and improving the dining environment during the Spring Festival to increase the enthusiasm of non-local employees to stick to their posts during the Spring Festival.
Oct/Nov 2021 Updates
A new COVID-19 outbreak has spurred parts of China to increase restrictions on movement, with the capital Beijing sealing off some areas and north-western regions imposing a range of transport curbs and closing public venues.
Many kindergartens, schools and daycare facilities have also closed indefinitely in some regions, particularly in the northwest.
The situation of factories collaborating with The Centre
Most factories are running normally and orders are certain. However, blackouts and electricity rationing have struck around 20 provinces across China over the past month, and most of factories have begun to significantly limit their operation time (such as run for three days and close for four). This is having an impact on the production arrangement and capacity.
According to a worker who spoke to The Centre, their monthly income has decreased because working hours have been shortened as a direct result of the power outages. Provinces that are being hit particularly hard include major manufacturing regions such as Jiangsu, Guangdong and Zhejiang.
Special measures The Centre is taking during the pandemic
The Centre’s staff is conducting online surveys more frequently to avoid intensive travel, especially to regions with known COVID cases.
The Centre is adapting more flexible programme scheduling to ensure the safe implementation of our programmes.
Staff who ran The Centre’s Child Friendly Spaces programmes were given intense training on COVID prevention and safety. There were no cases of COVID in any of the 12 CFS in China.
September 2021 Updates
China’s latest outbreak is currently concentrated in Fujian Province, including in Putian, which is known as “East China’s shoe city” due to the large number of shoe factories located there. 64 positive cases have been detected there since September 10. The spread in local transmissions is attributed to the Delta variant, and local authorities have ordered mass testing for students and teachers.
The Putian local government has asked residents to stay in the city and those who must leave must hold proof of a negative nucleic acid test taken within the previous 48 hours, the Global Times reports.
From Monday September 13, all schools and kindergartens in Putian, excluding grade three senior high students and boarding schools, will switch to online classes.
July 2021 Updates
China is currently battling a surge in local outbreaks in Jiangsu, Guangdong, Anhui and Sichuan Province.
Travel restrictions are in place in Guangdong, China's key manufacturing hub and where a large number of factories implementing projects with The Centre are based. Those leaving the city to go outside Guangdong province via train stations, highway stations, ports and shuttle bus stations must provide proof of a negative coronavirus test within 48 days before departing, excluding those travellers arriving for transfer.
A small number of factory projects with The Centre that were due to begin in June/July have been delayed due to the pandemic.
Impact on workers and families
Despite new challenges brought on by local outbreaks, eight factories in China have so far perservered and opened Child Friendly Spaces to provide childcare support to their parent workers. Several more factories are expected to open Child Friendly Spaces before the end of the month. Schools and most kindergartens in China are currently closed for the summer, so Child Friendly Spaces are a much-needed, free child care solution for parent workers and deters them from taking their children with them to the production areas.
June 2021 Updates
China is currently fighting against a new COVID-19 outbreak in Guangdong Province, China’s key manufacturing hub. More than 110 COVID-19 cases have been found in Guangdong since May, while nearly 90% of them have been detected in Guangzhou, the provincial capital.
Due to the outbreak of COVID-19 in Guangdong Province, Shenzhen airport requested travellers from Guangzhou or Foshan to show negative COVID-19 test results within 72 hours of arrival.
The Guangzhou government has suspended personal vaccine appointments and focused on the vaccination of key groups.
May 2021 Updates
Summer holiday for schools and kindergartens: according to the education authority, schools in most cities will start the summer holiday from mid-July and last until the end of August.
Vaccination: As of May 25, 2021, a total of 546.714 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine were administered nationwide. The plan is to cover 40% of the total population by June.
Risk: As of May 26, there are 24 medium risk areas in five cities (Liu'an and Hefei in Anhui Province, Yingkou and Shengyang in Liaoning Province, Guangzhou in Guangdong Province)
February 2021 Updates
Migrant workers wishing to travel home for the Chinese New Year to visit their families will either not be able to do so this year or will face major hurdles. New measures have been put in place to curb the world’s largest internal migration following a cluster of outbreaks in China in recent weeks.
Over 5 million residents in Beijing and north-eastern China are under lockdown during the Chinese New Year period to limit the spread of COVID-19.
China's National Health Commission has stated that people returning to rural areas will need to produce a negative Covid-19 test issued up to seven days before their departure during the Spring Festival. They'll also have to be under a 14-day "home observation" period - which still allows them to leave their home, but requires them to monitor their temperature daily. During this time they will also not be allowed to take part in gatherings and have to take a COVID test every seven days. This new rule is in place between Jan. 28 and March 8.
Some cities and companies are reportedly also handing out monetary incentives to encourage people to not travel.
December 2020 Updates
The Situation of Parents and Children
According to a new study by CCR CSR on migrant parent workers in China's export manufacturing industry, 61% of migrant parent workers sustained significant financial losses this year due to the impact of COVID-19
40% of parents did not receive compensation for missing work due to COVID-19
40% of parents found it harder to guarantee their children's education this year
22% of parents delayed their return to work to support their children with online schooling or with childcare
Significantly more parents relied on the grandparents to take care of their children in 2020 (62%) than in 2017 (39%)
The Impact of COVID-19 on Factories
Aug 13, 2020 updates
In the last two weeks, we interviewed 4 factories. They all said that their production is back on course now and are able to maintain a normal production schedule. However, orders after December 2020 are uncertain.
The factories also said that their workers’ hours are currently the same as last year.
July 28, 2020 updates
Among the 5 factories we spoke to in July, three have laid off some workers due to shrinking orders. Those laid-off workers have to find odd jobs nearby.
All factories have told us that they are not going to recruit new workers this year. Workers' working hours and workload have also decreased due to the order changes.
Situation as of July 10, 2020
This July, four factories will be opening Child Friendly Spaces for the first time to support their parent workers, while 8 factories will reopen existing spaces. Read this article for more details.
By May, almost all factories in China resumed production.
Some factories in the garment, footwear, textile, bag and accessories industries had to ask employees to take leave or lay off workers. Factories in the toy industry are hit less hard by the pandemic and some of them are even facing labour shortage. One factory making toys for example has reported an increase in sales this year because in-house toys are more popular when people have to stay at home.
In April, the situation of shrinking orders continued in the garment, footwear, textile, bag and accessories industries, while several factories began to produce non-surgical masks.
Among 49 factories that we talked to in March, around half of them said that they haven’t had new orders in 1 or 1.5 months.
Impact on Parent Workers
Aug 13, 2020 updates
Among 140 recently surveyed parent workers, 67.9% reported that their income is enough to cover their families’ basic living expenses of your family, or to save up.
32.1% however, reported that their income cannot cover all their basic expenses.
Income: According to the survey with 47 workers in June, 30% said they didn’t receive their salary during the lockdown, while 32% said they received the minimum salary. After they resumed working, 55% of the surveyed workers reported reduced salary. 68% of surveyed workers said the pandemic has created a great economic loss for their family, and 91% said they can barely afford the basic necessities of life. The pandemic also impacted workers' decision on career planning, with 19% saying that they will consider a job near their hometown, and 32% saying that they will find a job back home if they are laid off.
Six out 19 families in our child labour remediation programme have been significantly impacted by COVID-19 due to reduced salary or working hours or unable to find new jobs due to lockdowns.
Childcare: In interviews with The Centre, workers said that their children are not learning efficiently following the switch to online lessons, are easily distracted and are dependent on their parents’ engagement. However, most parents have no experience helping their children with their studies, which over the long-term may result in increased anxiety and exhaustion among parents as well as a decline in children’s academic performance. 9% of the surveyed worker living with their children said they will consider sending their children back to their hometown due to the impact of COVID-19.
Most of provinces or cities have reopened schools. In Shanghai and Beijing all schools were due to reopen before June 8. However, a recent surge in cases in Beijing has prompted Beijing to change its decision to reopen schools for students in grade 1-3.
Migrant workers who have started work have to leave their children alone at home with just a smartphone to take online courses, while some parents have reported installing a live camera at home so that they can monitor their children while they’re at work.
For workers who have more than 1 child, different school schedules complicate things further, with many workers requiring greater work flexibility to manage their children’s schedules.
Actions taken by The Centre
July 28, 2020 updates
We have completed 9 rounds of online migrant parent training, benefitting nearly 2000 parent workers
We have finished 3 rounds of parent-child activities, benefitting nearly 30 families
We launched a new children’s workbook. Click here to view it
Our one-to-one consultation service has benefitted 12 parent workers
Five factories set up CFS for the first time this summer to support their workers during this unique time and nine factories repeated their CFS to retain their workers. See weekly updates on the 14 CFS here.
Actions taken by July 10, 2020
Delivered three sets of online migrant parent training (MPT) and parent-child activities and a children's smartwatch programme, and also created a children's workbook for a client. See more details here. We also delivered the first module of the online MPT to 598 participants in 23 toy factories.
By July, six parents availed of our online consultation service -- a service set up specifically to help workers deal with parenting challenges, especially new challenges brought on or intensified by the pandemic.
Developed new, innovative approaches to enable clients to continue supporting workers’ needs including an online version of our training programmes (migrant parent training, line manager training, child labour prevention and remediation training), online parent-child activities, Child smartwatch, a workbook for children to help them cope with COVID-19, providing online consultation services to parent workers who feel stressed and anxious or have problems with parenting, developing WeChat pushes with parenting guidance, etc.
Provided webinar for factory management on how to support parent workers and creating a family friendly environment. 118 participants took part in the 1.5 hour webinar, which included specific guidance on how to understand the workers’ needs, how to strengthen the health and safety system, and suggestions on childcare solutions, etc.
Provided one webinar on responsible recruitment to support factory with practical ideas and actions on how to conduct their recruitment practices responsibly. 178 participants took part in the 1.5-hour webinar, which discussed the key challenges and risks currently facing factories as well as practical actions they can take in response to these challenges and risks.
For factories who already have a CFS in place, we strongly suggested that they open their CFS post COVID-19 to ensure that workers who live with their children do not have to leave them alone when children are staying at home doing home schooling. Two factories in Guangdong have opened their CFS staring from Feb 2020 to better support their parent workers. 4 factories are setting up new CFS this summer to better support their parent workers.
Supplied healthcare kits to those families which are currently receiving support via The Centre’s child labour remediation programme.
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