As the Chinese economy continues to develop, new issues have arisen around the relationship between employers and young employees in the manufacturing sector. To understand these issues, the China National Textile and Apparel Council and the Center for Child-Rights and Corporate Social Responsibility came together in July 2011 to examine the plight of young migrant workers in six different factories. The initiative was carried out with support of the Swedish Embassy, and ultimately offered advice for employers to improve management strategies by enhancing communication with young workers.

Earlier this year, they released a study based on this initiative, which indicated that young migrant workers face problems in the factory and in private life. Some of the problems in the factory included:

  • Traditional management models driven by production-oriented strategies are unable to meet the demands of a generation with different aspirations and dreams. Most workers feel dull and bored in workshops; some even describe themselves as “robots.”
  • Many managers are local residents, while most young workers are migrants. In many cases, study participants reported they also live with a fear of being discriminated against because they are not locals.
  • Young workers have limited opportunities to contribute to or be involved with factory management, and many complain that their opinions are usually ignored.

The study also found that young migrant workers suffer from a number of problems in their private lives. One of their biggest challenges is finding partners because of a narrow social network and job instability.

The study made a number of recommendations for factories to improve the situation for younger employees:

  • Recruit workers with respect. Give proper information about the job before a hire, and be honest with regard to expectations, possibilities, and limitations so prospective workers can make informed decisions from the beginning.
  • Develop a new-staff adaptability scheme to win trust and give employees a sense of being part of a team. Enhance communication between younger and older workers, and provide young workers with opportunities to better adapt to the new environment.
  • Develop friendly, understanding, and trustworthy frontline managers. Frontline managers have the most frequent contacts with workers, and their trust will make the workers feel respected.
  • Provide workers with opportunities to participate and contribute. Develop mechanisms to mobilize young workers to participate in dailyactivities; regard young workers as vibrant and creative people who can contribute, not just serve as production labor.
  • Enhance relationships between factories and local communities. Encourage workers to take part in community activities and participate in voluntary work to improve interaction with local communities. These activities also help enlarge their social networks.