The following blog is based on stories gathered during The Centre’s 2019 Child Friendly Spaces programme implementation in China. CFS are safe, fun spaces in or near a factory for the children of workers (aged 3-13) to spend their summer holidays. The free spaces are run by professional teachers who provide the children with fun, creative and educational experiences while their parents can put to their minds to rest at work.
Large migrant workforce and influx of children each summer
One manufacturing factory specialising in LED lighting in Zhejiang Province has a workforce comprised of more than 80% migrant workers. Each summer when school holidays begin, the factory sees a big influx of children coming to visit their parents. For most of the parents, the summer holiday is the only time besides Spring Festival that they can spend time with their children. However, despite parents’ good intentions to unite with their children, this situation creates huge challenges for the parents, who more often than not, have no choice but to leave their children unsupervised in the dorms while they work. This situation leaves the children isolated and under-stimulated, while parents worry about their children’s safety as they work. The factory saw that this situation was weighing heavily on the minds of their workers and so, they decided to do something about it.
Addressing the challenge
The factory cleared out an activity room in the dormitory building and converted it into a space suitable for the children to stay during the day. Two staff members were assigned to safeguard the children. In 2019, The Centre (formerly CCR CSR) helped the factory improve the centre and its services with the support of one of the factory’s clients.
“We have been running this centre for three years, and this is the 4th year of our operation. We’ve increased our investment and renovated the Child Friendly Space. For example, we’ve painted the walls, put down new floor mats, and installed child-friendly facilities in the bathroom. Many parents told me that they think the centre is getting better every year,” said Ms. Lu, the main person in charge of the space.
Following The Centre’s suggestions, the factory also improved its daily operation and management of the CFS. For example, checking the children’s temperature when they come to the centre became part of the teachers’ morning routine. The teachers also organised different activities to meet the needs of children at different ages, ranging from arts & crafts to physical games.
To foster closer parent-child relationships, parent-child activities were also organised.
“This is my fourth year coming here. I feel that this year is very different from previous years. First of all, the centre has been renovated and is much prettier than before. There are also more books and toys for us this year. We also have more activities this year. For example, we had a parent-child day this year. I’ve never taken part in this kind of activity with my parents before. We went on a treasure hunt and some sports games. We also made cakes together at the end of the day,” said Jiayu, a thirteen-year-old girl from Shanxi Province.
Positive changes after the programme
At the end of the CFS programme, The Centre conducted an impact assessment in the factory and found positive changes brought by the programme: 74% of participating parents reported having a closer relationship with their children after the programme; there was a 16% increase in participating parents who ‘absolutely trust’ the management; and 96% of participating parents agreed that the factory management understands their challenges as parent workers.
“The CFS programme helps us with our employee retention. Many of the participating parent workers of the CFS programme have been working for Zhongfa for a long time. Some of them have been with us for almost ten years. With the CFS programme addressing their concerns about taking care of their children during the summer, they will feel a stronger sense of belonging here. The programme helps us retain employees at key positions and maintain a core team of experienced workers.
Many of our previous workers, especially female workers, resigned because they had to return to their hometown to give birth and take care of their children. Many of them won’t return to the workplace again because it’s hard for them to find affordable childcare alternatives. We might also add CFS to our recruitment advertisement next year since it will probably attract other parent workers who have the need,” said Ms. Lu.
Leading by example
The factory has decided to continue the programme and improve their services further next year. With the positive impact it has achieved, the programme also received much attention from the local government and union organisation, who have decided to promote the programme in the entire Hangzhou Bay industrial park and encourage more factories to follow in this factory’s footsteps.
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