Plan International is an NGO that defends children’s rights and the rights of young people in developing countries. In April 2016, it launched a new program in China to improve the employability of young women from rural areas who migrate to Beijing seeking a better life. This vocational training program, sponsored by Fondation CHANEL, is a response to specific demographic and sociological problems in China.
The Challenge of Rural Migration
Beijing is among the world’s most populous cities. Over a third of its 21 million inhabitants are resident migrants, many of them young people. Seventy-eight percent of these migrants have no degree and only limited access to vocational training. Furthermore, young women leave rural areas for the city at an earlier age than men, and are more vulnerable to the risks of exploitation. According to Murielle Gamblin, Director of Corporate Partnerships at Plan International France, “The demographic context, and their lack of awareness of their rights, only increase the likelihood of gender-based discrimination: difficulties entering the workforce, the threat of exploitation, harassment, etc.”
The Goal of Plan International: Improve Access to Decent Jobs
Plan International China is present throughout the country, mainly through its child sponsorship program. Having witnessed the migration phenomenon firsthand, the NGO decided to address the need to empower migrants both economically and socially, particularly girls and women. Its goal is to facilitate migrants’ entry into the workforce by offering training and by helping them to find decent, stable employment. “We also supervise them for a period of six months to a year after the program to make sure that their quality of life improves, including through access to higher paying jobs in a secure environment and access to social protection,” says Gamblin.
Elder Care: a Growing Industry
To create the program, first PLAN International conducted a market study. “Prior to any project that aims to promote women’s economic independence, we conduct a market study in order to create a certified vocational training program that is adapted to the needs of the marketplace. It also enables us to provide a wide range of relevant training programs, as opposed to training programs that reinforce stereotypes. In China, the elder care sector is one of the fastest growing industries. We’re actually delighted to have realized this early on.” In Beijing, an estimated 90,000 new jobs will have been created in this sector of the market by the year 2021. There are several reasons for this; the transformation of the family unit, geographic remoteness, and the anonymity of big cities all contribute to the decreasing numbers of families caring for their elderly members themselves.
A Training Course to Find Work and Gain Skills
Plan International’s program is structured around a short vocational training course, which enables participants to only take off limited time from their current employment. The course includes units on self-confidence, legal rights etc., and is followed by job search assistance and mentoring. The training course helps participants to develop the skills they need to become caregivers, continue their studies in the field, or be entrusted with more responsibilities at work. One participant who has completed the course stated, “I had started working with elderly people as a caregiver, but I had no specific knowledge. In the training course I gained professional knowledge, for example about specific problems such as skeletal issues in elderly patients that cause them a lot of pain. Now I supervise a team of several dozen caregivers.”
Very encouraging Results
By 2019, Plan International China hopes to have trained 900 young migrants, 80% of whom will be women. The NGO has trained 212 people so far, which is over twice its initial goal for the first year. Of those trained, 124 found work in the six months following the training course, and 20 have passed the caregiver exam given by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security.
These results are encouraging, and the program will continue to evolve to improve its responsiveness to local issues. “For example, we’re considering a geographic expansion of this project into the suburbs of Beijing, in order to enable more isolated and disadvantaged populations to access the vocational program,” states Gamblin. “A good program is never set in stone. We have to keep on asking ourselves if we can do better.”
reporter for Fondation CHANEL