Between 2020 and 2021, German online retailer Otto Group implemented a comprehensive parent worker support programme in its China and Turkey supply chain called “WeCare” with support from The Centre for Child Rights and Business.
Why was there a need to support parent workers?
Despite the programme taking place in two very different geographic regions, parent workers in both China and Turkey shared similar challenges: they struggled to secure childcare for their children during work hours. This prompted some workers, especially migrant workers, to leave their children behind in their hometowns while they migrated for work. Others brought their children with them to factories and production sites. These challenges intensified significantly when the pandemic hit, with workers facing the added pressure of supporting their children’s remote education. The stress arising from these challenges had a negative impact on the factories – workers were distracted and worried at work, while others quit to take care of their children.
Targeted support for workers and factories
As a first step of the WeCare programme, we worked closely with the factories to understand their needs. Following this assessment, factories were offered a choice of different interventions to choose from. These interventions focused on supporting migrant parent workers and their children, and were tailored specifically to meet the challenges brought on by COVID-19. Specifically, this included migrant parent training to help parents understand their children better and enhance their parenting and communication skills; activities to strengthen parent-child interaction including parent-child activities, distributing smartwatches and a children’s workbook to help children learn about and deal with COVID-19. WeCare also included targeted emergency support in the form of school kits, phone credit, digital devices for children unable to access online learning, cash transfers to those unable to pay for basic necessities, and one-on-one psychological consultations.
What positive impact did the programme achieve for factories?
In China and Turkey, a total of 12 factories took part in the WeCare programme, directly reaching 837 workers and 663 children. By addressing parents’ childcare and parenting needs, the programme led to a significant improvement in workers’ trust in management, a reflection of feeling supported and understood.
“I’m really grateful for OTTO and our factory for organising these meaningful activities. As a working parent, I feel understood and supported,” said Ms. Yang, one of the WeCare participants in China who is mother to a 5-year-old son whom she sees once or twice a year.
The programme also resulted in a significant increase in workers’ satisfaction towards their factories, as well as an increase in workers willing to recommend the factories to their family and friends. What’s more, the majority of programme beneficiaries said they would like to keep working at the factory for two years or more.
How did parent workers benefit?
The above results are also closely tied to the benefits that workers themselves gained through the programme. For example, almost all participants in China and Turkey said they got closer to their children and understand them better thanks to the WeCare parent-child activities, while almost all recipients of smartwatches said they contact their children more frequently now.
The WeCare programme was also designed to strengthen and empower parent workers through increasing parenting knowledge and skills. In both countries, parents reported feeling more confident in their ability to communicate with their children, deal with stress and support their children’s education.
“I have four school-aged children and I work. It’s hard to manage both. When I found out about the laptop distributions and MPTs I was overjoyed. As every parent, I also need some guidance and direction on how to establish a healthy relationship with my children, who are teenagers. I gained valuable insight from the trainings,” said Ms. Aksu, a mother of four who participated in the programme in Turkey.
The Otto Groups’ programme came at time of unprecedented hardship. The pandemic has thrown countless families into abject poverty and insecurity. Through programmes like WeCare, companies like the Otto Group are directly supporting parents in areas with the most pressing need. As the above impact shows, supporting parent workers not only helps them and their families get through extreme hardships, it ultimately helps the factories too.
“As the Otto Group, we have been committed to fair and safe working conditions for more than 25 years. In these extraordinary times, it is particularly important to us to support the employees and their children individually and directly. I am delighted that [we] we can help at such short notice and lay the foundation for a long-term commitment,” said Alexander Birken, CEO of the Otto Group.