Migrants feel pain of separation
Long-term separation from family members has become a top reason for migrant workers to consider quitting their jobs, a survey shows.
It says this represents a major challenge for companies to maintain an efficient and stable workforce.
The survey, released on Thursday, also blames enterprises for a lack of awareness about the problem and for insufficient support for their workers.
More than 40 percent of migrant workers said they had left their jobs at least once for family reasons.
The main reasons include taking care of their children, attending to senior family members and to be with their spouses.
The survey was conducted by the Center for Child Rights and Corporate Social Responsibility, a Beijingbased social enterprise, in cooperation with Facilitator, an NGO serving migrant workers.
About 1,500 workers and management staff members at nine factories in the Pearl River Delta and Chongqing municipality were interviewed last year. The Swedish embassy in China sponsored the study.
More than 80 percent of migrant workers who left their children behind in the countryside said they felt they had failed to play their role as parents.
About 70 percent of respondents said they had a strong sense of guilt and anxiety as a result of family separations and also found it difficult to communicate with their children after long separations.
Hu Xuexiu, a 38-year-old migrant worker from Hunan province, said she felt lonely every day, missing the daughter she left behind in her hometown very much. Hu works at an electronics factory in Zhuhai, Guangdong province.
She said she had considered quitting her job to be with her daughter, who is at high school.
China has more than 61 million children left behind by their migrant worker parents, or one in five children under the age of 18 living separately from their parents, according to the All-China Women’s Federation.
The situation has taken its toll not only on parent-children relationships, but on migrant workers’ performance at factories.
More than half of the respondents said they felt distracted or not committed to their work. One in three said they made mistakes in their work as a result of worrying about their children’s wellbeing.
The research also found that migrant workers chose to leave their children behind because of a shortage of income, difficulties in finding suitable schools, and busy work schedules that leave them with no time to be with their children.
The hukou household registration system means many children of migrant workers cannot enjoy equal rights to education, healthcare and other social services in cities.
Many migrant workers said they would consider returning home to be reunited with their families if they could find jobs there.
The findings may help enterprises to better fulfill their corporate social responsibilities, as a labor shortage has emerged in many places, the report said.
Hu suggested that companies do more to help migrant workers solve their family problems, such as setting flexible working hours for migrant workers with children, or providing activity centers where children can do homework or take part in after-school activities.
Li Tao, director of the social work development center of Facilitator’s Beijing branch, said: “Most of the enterprises interviewed showed little concern about the challenges that migrant parents face, including economic pressures and family communication breakdowns.
“But they agreed that such problems would certainly affect their business.”
Li said most of the enterprises don’t have support strategies in their corporate social responsibility blueprints for migrant workers with children.
Liu Kun, spokesman for electronics giant Foxconn Technology Group, said the problem of migrant workers integrating with the cities they work in needs solving urgently, but it is impossible for it to be solved entirely by companies.
Without efforts from the governments in host cities to remove barriers, including hukou and inequality in access to public services, companies’ efforts could make little difference, Liu said.
Zhang Yi, deputy director of the Institute of Sociology under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said enterprises could play a positive role in creating a family-friendly environment for migrant worker employees, such as by providing dormitories for couples and running kindergartens. Contact the writers at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
Eight-year-old Wang Yi lies in a hospital bed in Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang province, on Tuesday with severe frostbite to his left hand. The left-behind child of a divorced migrant worker sustained the injury on a long walk through freezing temperatures to catch a school bus.
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