China is the most important purchasing market for BSCI (Business Social Compliance Initiative) members. This is also the country where the organization does most of its audits. In fact, 80 percent of all such audits occur in China.
The biggest challenge has to do with maximum working hours
Anna-Karin Wårfors, CSR Manager: "The biggest challenge has to do with maximum working hours”. China has 250 million rural inhabitants and 160 million of them have left their home village to work elsewhere as migrant workers. Typically, they work longer days in order to save money and send it back home to their families, regardless of whether they end up working longer hours than what is allowed. Another challenge is that the code of conduct is not always understood as intended, i.e. an evaluation tool for creating better conditions. Instead, it's sometimes only regarded as a requirement for setting up business relationships.
However, during the last few years, young migrant workers have started thinking differently. There is now a greater focus on career opportunities, welfare protection that extends beyond salaries, improved factory conditions and last but not least, training and education.
It's clear that this higher level of awareness leads to new challenges for the factories. It also puts pressure on producers to increase their focus on social responsibility. You also need to consider the fact that the government is encouraging textile factories to relocate from the eastern to western parts of the country, which will also change the conditions for social responsibility efforts.
The BSCI audit results show that the situation in China has improved in recent years. In 2011, there were 2,026 initial audits conducted in China and 33 % of the facilities that were inspected were rated as "good", whereas 48 % "did not meet the requirements". That's a considerable improvement compared to 2010, when just 27 % were rated as "good" and 58 % "did not meet the requirements".
The change could be due to higher awareness of these issues at the legislative level, along with a competitive situation that is forcing improvement in this area.