A project launched last year to improve the productivity, competitiveness and sustainability of factories in China’s Guangdong Province is recruiting more participants.
The joint programme between the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) office for China and Mongolia and the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) is focused on Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the province’s capital Guangzhou City that supply international brands.
In turn, it is part of the ILO’s Sustaining Competitive and Responsible Enterprises or SCORE programme, which enables SMEs to participate in global supply chains through help with practical training and in-factory consulting on social performance.
So far, 17 Chinese factories supplying products to eight ETI member brands are taking part in the two-year initiative, which runs until the end of January 2019. Modules rolled out on workplace cooperation and quality management have benefitted over 9,000 employees.
And according to the ETI, factory owners have also seen increased productivity, a reduction in defects and improved workplace cooperation.
At Sun-step Shoes, a factory nominated by New Look, absenteeism had dropped from 4.34% in June to 3.67% in September, and the resignation rate had also decreased by 0.4% from June to September.
“Seeing the positive results achieved throughout 2017, more ETI members enquired about providing SCORE training to their own suppliers,” says ETI programme support officer Eshan Chan.
While SMEs make up 60% of China’s national industrial output, create nearly 80% of jobs, and have a growing presence in international supply chains, they also tend to have much lower levels of compliance with national labour laws. There is also a greater likelihood of strained industrial relations and inadequate safety and health protection for workers.
These problems are common and reflected in worker-management communication, compliance with labour standards, and in particular, issues around excessive working hours and in meeting legal wage rates and benefits.
China has ratified a significant number International Labour Conventions and translated them into law. However, the government struggles to effectively enforce these laws, leaving workers dependent on employers to provide decent working conditions.