Sarah Ng, the organisation’s communications manager, tells Toy World readers how the Family Friendly Spaces programme is helping factory workers and their children.
There is no doubt that Covid-19 has brought uncertainty to all parts of the world and all sectors of business and society, requiring companies to review their strategies and financial plans in response. At ICTI Ethical Toy Program (IETP), we have continued to deliver on our commitment to ensuring the well-being of workers producing toys. A crucial factor in enabling the toy industry to respond to changes in demand, these workers, like all of us, have had concerns about returning to work, as well as protecting their health and that of their families – particularly those who are separated from their children as they migrate for work.
In China, there are estimated to be 61m children who are ‘left-behind’. These are children who stay in their home village, often with elderly grandparents, whilst their parents migrate to work in the city. In many cases they may be reunited just once a year, and with Covid-19 families faced serious disruption to those visits. That is why we were delighted to implement our Family Friendly Spaces (FFS) Program again this summer. FFS has now run for five years and benefitted nearly 3,000 children.
On October 22nd, we held our FFS Annual Sharing Conference, which this year was a virtual event. The conference gave factories who implemented FFS the opportunity to share their experiences. One factory told us it participated for the first time this year as a way to address the negative impact of Covid-19 on worker attraction and retention. Management believed that providing childcare facilities for migrant parents and their children would stabilise their workforce and increase their competitiveness. A spokesperson said: “The pandemic didn’t stop us; we have been carefully observing the benefits IETP’s FFS programme brings to companies, workers and children in previous years, and we were confident this is what we needed to do at this challenging time.”
Companies are more cautious than ever when it comes to investment, so it’s critical that limited resources are deployed wisely for long-term positive impact. Supporting and encouraging your supply chain partners to understand the needs of their workers and respond to them in ways that deliver business benefits for all makes sense. The ICTI Ethical Toy Program developed FFS after learning from its factory members that 31% of migrant parent workers have left their job to take care of their children. With the majority of workers being migrants this was a major issue, and summer holidays intensified the pressure. Even parents local to the factory face challenges during the school summer holidays, with many having to leave their children alone whilst they work as local childcare is either unavailable or unaffordable.
High turnover rates and a distracted workforce leads to poorer productivity and impacts product quality, as a result production costs increase. To tackle these points, FFS enables workers to access high quality, safe and stimulating childcare.
Each year we assess the impact of the programme. The metrics are positive and support the business case for implementation and support. Looking at the achievements from FFS 2020:
- 48% of workers said they are more efficient at work
- 52% of workers are happier at work
- 90% of workers cited FFS as a reason to continue working in the factory
“We see participating workers are happier and very thankful to the factory for opening the spaces,” said an FFS manager at a participating factory. “We plan to highlight FFS as a unique selling point in job advertisements. For the programme next year, we are determined to go further and open up the opportunity to even more workers.”
The general manager of another factory that participated said: “I think FFS is a really great project. When workers know that we care about them and their families, their relationship with us improves. Our production efficiency has significantly increased. We believe this project will have a great impact on the factory in the long run, so we have decided to run the project in the coming years.”
The business benefits are clear, but the most rewarding impact can be seen in the children; 70% of workers felt their children are more open and confident after FFS participation, while 60% of workers said they developed closer relationships with their children. One father proudly said: “When my daughter first came, the teachers said she was a very timid girl. Now after FFS, she even greets people she’s never met before.” Another added: “My son was an introverted boy who has lived with his grandmother since he was quite young. After joining FFS he became more talkative and was proud to show us his drawings and handicrafts. When FFS was coming to a close we decided he should now live with us. I know it won’t be easy, but we want to stay together as a family.”
Proven to be sustainable, scalable programme, FFS is the definition of a win-win initiative. Supporting FFS is an effective way to show your corporation’s commitment to being a force for good. Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) reporting is now a requirement for listed companies and the Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) provide a blueprint and catalyst for companies to take action to be more sustainable. Studies illustrate that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) or ESG initiatives strengthen businesses when they are incorporated into core strategies. Achieving supply chain stability and security are critical business objectives, made more possible when your workforce, and that of your supply chain partners, is stable and motivated.
FFS is just one way we support worker well-being. We want to help many more families and that is why we also provide Migrant Parent Training and assistance to establish After School Centres.
Not all factories can implement FFS, for a variety of reasons, but our Migrant Parent Training (MPT) offers a great solution. The MPT training workshops provide practical tools to lessen the burden of workers’ separation from their children and help build stronger relationships with them. During the workshops, parents are helped to:
- come to terms with the separation from their children
- understand how to provide support for their children
- handle conflict or challenging situations remotely
- and develop their communication skills, designed to strengthen the parent-child bond.
Since 2016, nearly 5,000 workers have participated in MPT workshops, which have directly benefitted their children. In response to Covid-19, we made the MPT training available online, supporting 645 working parents with encouraging results:
- 69% reported increased confidence in their ability to educate their children from afar
- 90% said they would change their parenting style
- 80% said MPT helped to reduce the pressure they felt, as well as their anxiety
“Parents found the training to be practical for their daily life, and it demonstrates the factory’s commitment to worker well-being; the training focuses not on work but on family life,” said one participating factory manager.
IETP will continue to implement programmes that directly benefit workers and their families, which in turn benefit the factory and their customers. Carmel Giblin, CEO of IETP, said: “In 2021, we’ll create more ways for our programme members to participate in, and support, our worker well-being programmes. Through collaboration and partnership, we will grow Family Friendly Spaces, deliver more Migrant Parent Training, and launch a ground-breaking programme of work in partnership with UNICEF. These all support our ambition to ensure that IETP factories set the standard for Family Friendly Factories.”
To find out more about our programs and how you can get involved contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.