The following story is a best practice example of a toy factory in China that has demonstrated its commitment to being a family friendly employer, despite the disruptions of COVID-19. Rather than shying away from making an extra effort to support its workers, the factory – which is a member of the IETP programme – recognised the importance and timeliness of helping its workers during these challenging times. Many migrant workers have fallen on hard times because of this pandemic, and do not have a safety net to catch them. Many are not receiving any kind of support from anyone – neither from the government, their employers nor the brands buying the products they make. The following story therefore stands out as a positive example of a factory stepping up to support its workers in need, while also creating benefits for its own business.
Background and Overview
At a factory in Guangdong province, around one-third of workers are migrant parents, and 61% of their children are under 13 years old. Many migrant workers moved here alone or only with their spouse, so many of them do not have help from family members to take care of their children when they are at work. In the summer of 2018, the factory opened Child Friendly Space (CFS) to cater parents’ childcare needs during the summer holiday. When the holiday ended, they continued utilising the space as an After-School Centre (ASC) for migrant children who attend kindergarten nearby and to provide childcare service 16:00 to 19:00 on weekdays and full day on Saturday.
When COVID-19 hit the country in late January 2020, parents’ need for childcare service grew exponentially particularly as schools and kindergartens shut indefinitely. As the factory resumed production in late February, they knew how crucial childcare support was to their parent workers. Out of a combination of good will and the desire to retain their skilled workers, the factory decided to extend the opening hours so that it doubled up as a day-care centre (open from 7:00-12:00,13:30-18:00) and as an after-school centre, thus allowing parents to work worry-free until they finish their shifts.
In late March 2020, 11 children were attending the day-care centre, and in mid-May, the number grew back to 30, which is the number of children attending the centre before the pandemic.
The after-school activity centre at the factory
How the Day-care Centre Works
Every day in the morning, parents send children to the ASC on their way to work and pick them up when their shifts are done. In the morning when the temperature is appropriate for sports, teachers at ASC lead children to do some exercises or sport games. At noon, the cafeteria allows children to eat with their parents, and after lunch, parents take children back to the ASC to take a nap. Activities such as singing, drawing, movies, etc. are organised in the afternoon. And in the evening parents pick up their children when they finish their work. Every child who attends the ASC are provided with a mask per day, and every time they enter the ASC, their temperature is checked.
In order comply with local government measures for preventing the spread of the virus, the factory adhered to strict hygiene protocols including thoroughly disinfecting all surfaces, objects, air conditioning and ventilation fans on a regular basis; having a designated quarantine room for anyone showing signs of a fever, three temperature checks per day, mandatory hand sanitising upon entering the facility and strengthened communication with parents, management and local clinics. The factory has had no cases of infections and the parents whose children attend the centre feel at ease.
“I feel less stressed after having my child attend the programme because the ASC is safe for children and transportation is provided. My child said the ASC is more fun than back at home,” one worker whose child attends the ASC told The Centre.
Photo (L): Children on the bus that brings them from their Kindergarten to the ASC; (R)Parents picking up their children
Not only does the ASC offer much-needed support and relief to parents, it has shown to benefit the children themselves as well. According to an impact assessment by The Centre, 89% of parents say that their children acquired new skills at the ASC, while 84% of parents got to spend more time with their children after they started participating in the ASC programme.
“My child learned to speak Mandarin after he started to attend the ASC. In the past, he only spoke our dialect and could not understand Mandarin,” one worker said.
“My children became politer when they speak and ask for things,” said another.
Other than providing a day-care and an after-school service, the factory also supports migrant workers in other ways. Migrant workers are now given better dorm options and better pay. If they bring children or family members with them, they can claim a family dorm. Workers are not required to work overtime shifts, and the factory purchases social insurance for them and provides subsidies or snacks when needed. What’s more, all employees and their children are given free face masks each day. Overall, the factory hopes to create a friendly and supportive workplace from all aspects, and the day-care/after-school centre is an effective way of relieving parent workers’ burden. It also helps with family reunion. During the final assessment of the ASC programme, some parents said that they brought their children over because ASC provides the childcare service they need as a working parent.
“Last year my son was living back home and his grandparents took care of him. I used to worry about his health, and sometimes he was left home alone. After learning about the factory’s ASC programme, I decided to bring my son to live with me,” a mother of a 6-year-old son told The Centre.
“I believe bringing children with me is better for their psychological wellbeing and our relationship. The ASC relieved my stress on childcare, and it helps both me and my children,” another worker added.
The Positive Impact of Being a Family-Friendly Factory
The factory’s efforts to support its parent workers has brought the factory many benefits. Soon after opening the ASC, the factory realised the immense positive impact it had on worker satisfaction and retention. According to the final assessment of the ASC, worker satisfaction rates have increased by 42% since the centre opened and the percentage of workers absolutely trusting management increased by 38%. Moreover, the percentage of workers who would absolutely recommend the factory to their friends and relatives increased by 25%.
“Our factory’s internal survey shows that the satisfaction rate of our employees increased from 82% to 90%,” added Judy, the responsible person of the factory’s ASC.
What the factory didn’t realise at the beginning however, was how the centre would also help them and their workers cope with the many challenges of a pandemic. Almost all workers we spoke to said the ASC reduced their stress and alleviated their childcare challenges.
During the summer, the ASC will once again operate like a Child Friendly Space, where children are looked after and stimulated through play and learning during the summer holiday. The person in charge of ASC operation says that they will keep running the day-care and after-school service as long as there are parents who are in need of such a service.
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