China, even if it is losing its status of Factory of the World, is still a great sample of what can be found as a factory. There are huge factories of more than 20 000 or 30 000 workers, but also innumerable very small units of less the 50 persons or very common factories of 100 to 500 workers. Moreover, even within a category, differences are found. Management approach can be more or less centralized, more or less focused on the commercial or the industrial part, managers can be more or less trained, more or less aware of international buyers expectancies…As there are many agent and subcontracting, productions can indeed be in any kind of these factories.
During a social audit, we should focus on workers and their satisfaction which depends on the workers expectancies. Actually, expectancies of the workers are also very variable. For example, in a factory located in a rural area, where most workers are also part time farmer on their own, workers won’t expect the same flexibility and working time than in a factory in urban area where most workers are migrant living in dormitories. Thus workers satisfaction depends the nature of the factory (its organization, administration, management…) and its adequacy with workers expectancies. Obviously, all have important expectancies on wages. But it is a balance with other parameters.
The Code of Conduit (CoC) and their explanations / guidelines detail, step by step how the factory should be organized to be compliant / adequate. Most of the time there are lists of documents that should be available during the audit. These lists contain request on working time, wages, payroll, but also factory policies, certificate, copies of contract… Many are legal requirements, but others like written procedures, policies,… seems much more in the list just to facilitate the job of the auditors than anything else. Still, how can we ask every factory to act the same way although they are so different as well as their workers? These documents are part of management system and are supposed to be applicable in every situation. But, asking this kind of documents in small informal factories is leading them to implement it in a standard way.
Will workers satisfaction be improved or will we actually only transform the socially responsible approaches in an administrative program? Could we really be surprised when factories shows policies that are actually copies of the usual meaningless one? An important part of the changes seen in Chinese factories these last years is actually coming from the constant pressure of their customers via the regular requests for documents without checking first if there are pertinent. Complaining the factories are not really involved in socially responsible approach may not be very fair if we focus more on the existence of some documents than on workers satisfaction.