Chinese textile firms must change perception of internship
Chinese textile enterprises must change their perception of internships from “use of labour” to “use of talents", concludes a study carried out by the Office for Social Responsibility of the China National Textile and Apparel Council (CNTAC) with support from the International Labour Organization (ILO), released earlier this month.
The report is based on research carried out in November and December 2013 in ten textile and apparel sector enterprises in Jiangsu, Shandong, Fujian and Zhejiang provinces of China. It documents some of the actual conditions in which internships are carried out in the textile and apparel industry, and gives recommendations on how to improve the management of internships.
The study titled ‘Labour protection of interns in Chinese textile and apparel enterprises’ says that since last few years, manufacturing companies in China have been expanding their internship programmes for vocational school and college students.
Results of the study showed that while the vast majority of the 290 interns participating in the survey considered the internship to be a useful learning experience, a significant proportion worked in conditions that violate their labour rights and sometimes even constitute forced labour as the term is understood in international law.
Based on the study, the report gives separate recommendations for governments, schools and enterprises. At the policy level, the report says, “The Central Government needs to mobilize education authorities and human resources authorities to perfect the existing laws and regulations, and urgently establish clear minimum standards for labour protection and rights of interns from vocational schools and colleges in the labour law system and education law system.”
The study advises local governments to hold their urge of acting as labour agencies for the sake of the interests of local enterprises, and not engage in assigning or allocating students of local schools to enterprises for internship. They should, instead, effectively perform their statutory duties, and strengthen supervision and guidance on organizing internships in enterprises and schools' internship activities.
At the school level, the study asks schools of various types to acknowledge the educational function of internships and ensure that internships allow interns to learn practical skills relevant to their trade.
The report advises enterprises to change their perception of internships from “use of labour” to “use of talents", and discover and nurture interns' strengths and potential. “They need to better match the interns' knowledge, skills and expectations with the enterprises' demands for talents to create more value for enterprises, increase interns' loyalty and satisfaction with the internship,” states the report.
In terms of practical operations, enterprises should fulfil two important duties in using interns by establishing and perfecting a series of management measures, namely "protection" (preventing risks of forced labour) and "cultivation" (increasing quality of talents).
Enterprises should perceive internships as a long-term strategy for easing challenges with recruiting and retaining highly-competent people, rather than short-term strategy for addressing labour shortages. Therefore, enterprises must take strategic measures to fill the gap between the use of interns and the enterprise's objective of sustainable use of talents, the report concludes.