Solidaridad and partners launch pilot project for fair wage management systems in China

Solidaridad and QuizRR have joined hands with H&M, Esprit and KappAhl, with funding from the ASN Bank, to work towards improving the working conditions and productivity in the supply chain of the textiles and garment industry in China. This partnership aims to contribute to ensuring decent labour conditions and fostering the progress towards achieving sustainable development goals (SDGs) in the sector. The official launch of the programme took place on 25 July 2019 in Shanghai, China.

The participants of the kick-off meeting in Shanghai, China

Pilot implementation towards wage management systems

The overall objective of this pilot project is to improve labour conditions, increase opportunities for skills development, and ensure fair wages for a minimum of 1,000 factory workers in China at (at least) 2 factories (2019-2020). The longer term objective is to roll out IT-based trainings, systems and methodologies on wage management to a larger group of factories and workers. This will contribute to better livelihoods of the factory workers, and improved transparency, quality and productivity of the factories in the long run. In order to realize this goal, we will apply a strategic approach with two main components. 

The kick-off meeting of the pilot programme in Shanghai

This involves the implementation of the digital education tools developed by QuizRR on workers engagement and wage management systems. Solidaridad will provide onsite guidance, support and trainings to see to it that wage systems are implemented. Social dialogue between workers and management will be promoted to make certain that these topics create long lasting impact. This will ensure that factory workers as well as management have an active role in the development and implementation of the solutions, creating an inclusive approach and local ownership.

In addition, Solidaridad and H&M have partnered for a longer time to address key social and environmental challenges in several producing countries. Based on the fair wage methodology, H&M developed the wage management systems approach. Our cooperation with H&M, in connection with QuizRR, has consequently resulted in this initiative to further test scalable solutions to improve labour conditions in China. 

Kick-off meeting of the pilot project

The kick-off meeting marking the official launch of the pilot programme took place in Shanghai, commencing with a welcome note by Rusong Li, Country Manager China at Solidaridad. He briefed the participants about the importance of this project from the perspective of donor and brand engagement, and also noted that this pilot is a significant development in the revitalization of Solidaridad Asia’s programmes in China following the recent office restructuring and leadership change.

Ipshita Das, Assistant Manager at Solidaridad Asia, and Solidaridad’s Programme Manager Enxue Wang, also took the floor to address the gathered audience. Ipshita Das highlighted Solidaridad’s current cotton and textile programmes implemented in India, China, Ethiopia and Myanmar, and gave an update on the upcoming work in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Following this, Enxue Wang discussed the details of the project, outlined the set up of wage management systems, and shared the prerequisites and the next steps in the pilot study.

The kick-off meeting of the pilot programme in Shanghai

Solidaridad’s partner in the project, QuizRR, was introduced by Lydia Wong, Regional Director. QuizRR provides a digital training platform for factories in a variety of sectors to address employment rights and responsibilities, and thus plays a vital role in the implementation of the training sessions in the pilot programme. The participants of the kick-off meeting were able to join the training session of QuizRR on the tablets provided to them, and discussed the usefulness as well as the challenges of applying this in the project.

This programme is funded by ASN Bank in the Netherlands. During a brief question and answer round, sustainability analyst Sjirk Prins from ASN Bank connected digitally from the Netherlands and interacted with the participants. He spoke about the bank’s sustainability initiatives and its role as a financial institution in promoting sustainable practices as a driving force in the financial sector. He also emphasized  ASN Bank’s commitment to working with civil society organizations, as well as supporting them in engaging with companies to mitigate adverse impacts on human rights and wages in particular.

The event concluded with a round of thanks and a discussion on the timeline for finishing the baseline study, following which the training sessions at the factories can commence, carried out by Solidaridad and QuizRR.       

Textiles and garment industry in China

China is home to the largest production and export industry of textiles in the world, exceeding one third of the international market share. In 2015, the production value of the textiles industry accounted for 7% of China's GDP. As an important export commodity, textile products play an important part in China's foreign trade. Moreover, as a labour-intensive industry, the textiles sector provides a lot of employment opportunities for China.

Being a predominant player in the textiles and garment industry, China thus has ample opportunities to tap into the upcoming market and the possibilities to scale up business ventures. This is important for meeting the growing demand while also addressing the environmental and social challenges which lie at the core of the sustainable development goals (SDGs). 

Meeting sector challenges

Prior to launching this pilot project, Solidaridad had commissioned a problem analysis of the textiles industry in China. The problem analysis had shown that worker dissatisfaction is an increasingly big problem, often as a result of insufficient wages and overtime work. This leads to strikes, low productivity, and eventually also a high-turnover of staff. This also presents a challenge for the factories as well as international buyers, which emphasizes the need to set systems in place to tackle these issues. 

Improvement in wages among workers and skills development are vital areas to work on. This is true not only for factory employees, but also for generating business and the expansion in the global market for the factories and brands alike. Ensuring the workers’ rights, health and safety, and social security enables businesses to have a positive impact on local causes, such as better standard of living, skills development and greater productivity of the employees. This also contributes to the global causes such as the SDG 1 (no poverty), SDG 5 (gender equality) and SDG 8 (inclusive and sustainable development growth).

Read more about Solidaridad’s work in the textiles sector.