Migration due to economic reasons has led to over 60 million children left behind by their parents in China. The Center for Child Rights and Corporate Social Responsibility (CCR-CSR) works with companies in around seven countries in Asia, including China, to solve some of the well-being issues for young workers and children of migrant workers. Apart from financial aid from the Swedish government, the fact that CCR-CSR is not an NGO but a social consulting enterprise also places it in an advantageous position in China. In addition to parent workers who have left behind children or children left unattended in factories, juvenile and young workers who lack job stability as well as line managers supervising these workers come within the organization’s purview.
We were at their office in Beijing to learn about their projects. The organization’s motto is clear, they see a win-win when business embraces child rights. While it is obvious how workers will benefit, CCR-CSR relies on increased labor retention, improved employee satisfaction, more motivated workforce, reduced compliance risks and enhanced reputation to sell the idea to companies. Their services include reviewing hiring policies to minimize compliance risks arising out of child labor, training programs for young workers and line managers and ensuring child-friendly spaces in factories. However, it is not as easy as it sounds. Currently, CCR-CSR teams up with a working group consisting multinational companies, mainly American or European companies. Owing to differences in working culture especially in terms of how differently corporate social responsibility is viewed in China, the organization is aware that it may be more challenging to engage Chinese factories. Their impact assessment surveys (snapshot below) conclude generally positive results, particularly in improving children’s safety, workers’ engagement and reducing compliance risks.
Image Source: http://www.ccrcsr.com/
One of the biggest risks is the engagement of child labor in industries in the lower tiers of the supply chain, where monitoring is less than common. In fact, the organization points of that it is these industries tend to give more honest responses during audits since they are not always aware of the high compliance risks associated with employing children. While contractual stipulations will only sway the bigger companies from doing business with the smaller factories in the lower tier temporarily, CCR-CSR is striving to bring awareness of these issues to the MNCs they work with to reduce child labor exploitation. It is commendable to see how CCR-CSR has begun to take on the complex supply chains to resolve the problem from its roots. My most important learning from this presentation was the pragmatism in their approach and their ability to balance well-being needs of left-behind and corporate’s compliance risks.