Mi­grants feel pain of sep­a­ra­tion

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By FAN FEIFEI and HE DAN

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 fan­feifei@chi­nadaily.com.cn and hedan@chi­nadaily.com.cn

WANG TIENAN / FOR CHINA DAILY

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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