2010 China: Mid-Term Evaluation of Millennium Development Goals Fund (MDGF) China Youth Employment & Migration (YEM)
Author: Bob Boase. Partners: MDG Achievement Fund; UN agencies: UNICEF, ILO, UNDP, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNIFEM, WHO; Participating Gov. agencies: MOHRSS, MOH, MOCA, NDRC, MPS, NPFPC, NWCCW, SAIC, State Council Inter-Ministerial Committee on Migrant Workers, NBS
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The three year MDGF US$6.6 million Youth Employment Migration (YEM) began February 11, 2009. YEM is premised on the fundamental contribution of the migrant to China’s transformation and therefore the logic in providing them with basic public goods and services as their legitimate right. Migrants are at the heart of China’s transformation. To the degree they are provided with their legitimate rights and services, they will make an even greater contribution to the country’s development. In this sense, provision of goods and services to migrants should be viewed as an investment and not as a cost to the state.
China is experiencing the largest movement of people in modern history. In the Chinese Government’s 11th Five-Year Plan for 2006-2010, internal migration was embraced as essential to the national development strategy. Framed with the right measures, migration can drive urbanization, increase rural incomes, restructure the economy, and level urban-rural and regional disparities. But maximizing the benefits of internal migration while mitigating its adverse effects is a difficult balancing act in a country of large dimensions.
YEM brings together nine UN agencies. This initiative will build on the platform created by the Theme Group on Poverty and Inequality and has provided the impetus for the development of a common strategy to addressing the needs of the most vulnerable migrant workers. It provides an unprecedented opportunity to ensure that the response to the largest movement of people in modern times is rights-based, poverty-focused, and fully informed by international good practice. The Joint Programme will emphasize a results-based approach with sustainable and replicable outcomes, a number of which are clearly innovative in the Chinese context.
All MDGF mid-term evaluations serve to improve implementation of joint programmes in their second half. They also generate knowledge, identify good practice and lessons learned that can be transferred to other programmes and contribute to the overall M&E system for the MDGF. Findings and recommendations from this evaluation will serve to inform the YEM Programme Management Committee, the National Steering Committee for China and the MDGF Secretariat in New York.
The methodology for this mid-term evaluation is based on the Terms of Reference for this assignment contained in Annex A of this report. The methodology involved the following:
The consultant was emailed all relevant documents and reports on the project in his home country for reading and analysis along with a contextualized terms of reference from project management to guide the planning of the assignment.
Based on the above the consultant prepared an inception report as the guiding document for the conduct of this evaluation. See Annex C for the Inception Report. This report was read by key stakeholders and adjusted as necessary by the consultant before field-work began.
Selection of Tianjin and Cangzhou for the field visit
The project operates in five sending provinces and eight receiving cities. See Annex F for complete list of Pilot Sending and Receiving Sites, Partners & Outputs. In the limited time available these two sites were selected because they are the only joint sending & receiving sites for YEM, they have the largest number of programme interventions and they are close to Beijing so that travel time was held to a minimum.
Work in China
The first three days was spent in Beijing in meetings organized around the project outputs with all contributors to a given output participating in the meeting whether from the government, academic institutions or the UN. Questionnaires were handed out at all these meetings and their results tabulated for additional feedback from stakeholders. See Annex G. for a Synopsis of Questionnaire Responses. The final two days of the first week was in Cangzhou County, Hebei Province to review work on the ground. The second week began in Tianjin where meetings with project stakeholders took place for three days. See Annex B for the list of stakeholders interviewed. The final two days of the mission back in Beijing were taken up with meetings with the two PMC Co-Chairs, the PMO staff and a debriefing/discussion with the YEM team.
Report writing back in home country
Once back in his home country, the consultant completed the draft report and submitted it to the clients for comment and feedback before finalizing this report.
Findings and Conclusions:
The Big Picture: Migrants are the backbone of China’s transformation
China is currently experiencing the largest migration in human history with over two-hundred million rural people having migrated to urban centers where they take on unskilled and low-skilled work that has been an important contributor to China’s impressive economic development and in the process, migrants have worked their way out of poverty. So migration has been one of the most powerful levers in China’s poverty reduction success. 300 million more migrants are projected over the next twenty years. Migration will remain a critical issue in China’s development going forward.
China’s migrants make an essential contribution to China’s transformation. Government policy with regard to migrants is still in the formative stage – thus YEM’s Outcome 1 on this front is timely and potentially important. Policy for migrants needs to be developed for the following subjects: employment services, wages and earnings, education and training, social security, health, housing, family and children of migrant workers and the protection of rights.
Better Work for Migrants
Better work for migrants is YEM’s Outcome 2. YEM has already made good progress on this front. The following are examples of achievements for each of the three outputs under this Outcome as described in the report.
Migrant Access to Social and Labour Services
YEM’s third outcome is Migrant Access to Social and Labour Services. Important achievements have been made here including YEM’s standard operating procedure for registering migrant children into the urban management system, the establishment of migrant community centers, migrant youth friendly services and UNIFEM’s promotion of special laws targeting China’s 10 million domestic working women.
YEM and the One-UN
While there have been serious efforts toward the UN functioning in a more coordinated and corporate manner in YEM there are significant transaction costs involved.
This project is focused on China’s estimated 225 million migrants and the projected 300 million more migrants over the next twenty years. Every successful migrant means a person has lifted him/herself and immediate family out of poverty. Thus the importance of this project if it can show the way to a more effective/sensitive/supportive policy environment toward the migrants In terms of geographic coverage YEM operates in five migrant ‘sending’ provinces and eight ‘receiving’ cities.
Unforeseen Implications of the MDGF Concept
MDGF is an attractive programme both for recipient government agencies and for UN agencies. Since no single authority is in control of the formulation the tendency is for many organizations to enrol. The result is a complex constellation of organizations involved and this complicates implementation. The other feature of these JPs is that they do not operate in a vacuum since recipient governments and other donors are already operating in the subject matter. Complementing and not duplicating ongoing effort then is a challenge for these JPs. Finally, the fact that there is no single line of authority in these JPs means that implementation is challenging and there is no single authority to hold the different participants accountable. All of this makes these JPs a challenging undertaking to say the least.
An overly ambitious project?
For a thirty-six month effort, YEM is very ambitious and complex in design and implementation. YEM involves nine UN Agencies, more than twenty national partners and more than 100 local partners at pilot sites. UN agencies and national partners work simultaneously on several YEM outputs with multiple partners. Officially there are 122 activities under YEM’s ten outputs but in fact more activities as partners break down one activity into smaller activities or add activities to address a changing context, reach established targets and maximize sustainability.
YEM holds good prospects for sustainability for the following reasons:
- The Government of China is strongly committed to the migrants and the migrants are have proven their endurance, resourcefulness and tenacity so that changes inspired by YEM will be pursued and institutionalized by the migrants;
- Many YEM pilot localities have been putting their own resources in the form of funding, equipment and human resources, which demonstrates a genuine commitment to the JP, e.g. Hunan Provincial Government allocated 300,000 Yuan to support the five pilot community centers;
- Some YEM localities have been replicating the pilots into their normal programming.
One of the overarching goals of this project is linked to MDG 3 to empower women. YEM has instituted the practice of gender breakdown in all its research so that differences can be identified. YEM training tends to have more young women than men migrants because young men find it easier to get work so migrant women are strongly represented in YEM training. Finally, output 3.4 a UNIFEM report argues for adoption of special laws targeting domestic work at national & local levels, which is almost 100 percent carried out by women – the goal is to establish a regulation on the management of domestic service Industry by the State Council.
Training is a critical activity in almost all YEM outputs. There was not time to conduct an evaluation of training but indications are that there is room for improvement. The UN and Chinese partners are all experienced in the subject matter of the training. While there are a few professional trainers involved in YEM it is not clear that there is a professional training perspective attached to all YEM training. It is one thing to know the subject matter whether it is labour rights or labour contracts. It is another thing to know how to design the training so that it has impact.
Ownership is strong on all fronts in this project starting with the Government of China. YEM fully supports China’s current Five-Year-Plan and its Poverty Reduction Strategy and is providing important analysis, pilot examples and lessons learned for the development of China’s 12th Five-Year-Plan and its 2011-2020 Poverty Reduction Strategy.
As with all JPs YEM faces its own challenges as follows:
- With over 120 partners including ministries, the UN family, local governments and civil society organizations, the task of coordination in YEM is daunting and enormous amounts of time and resources are devoted to the task, much more than was envisaged in the project document. It is not an exaggeration to say that the number one, two and three challenges of YEM are: coordination, coordination and coordination;
- Migration in the current context and scale is still a relatively new phenomenon in China; the migrant by definition is on the move, all of which makes migrants a difficult target group to reach, to study and to document; it is particularly challenging to reach the most vulnerable due to their mobility and lack of connection to the formal system. YEM has employed special approaches, for example, using employment centres and youth camps, as well as distributing questionnaires and advocacy materials in places frequented by vulnerable youth, for example, village markets and railway stations.
- Government policy and practice with respect to migrants is advancing quickly so YEM must keep pace with the change and remain flexible so as not to duplicate effort while taking advantage of emerging government migrant policy and practice;
- YEM’s sheer complexity is a challenge in itself, e.g. Output 2.3 Life Skills Training for Migrants (LST) involves six UN & six Chinese organizations delivering LST to five different target groups – new training content and new training methodology, TOT - all wrapped together in this single output. This is a project in itself yet in YEM it is only one of ten outputs;
- Pilot site selection has sometimes been problematic because the UN and Ministries have different pilot preferences due to their differing traditions and practices;
- The lack of policy for migrants makes YEM implementation difficult, e.g. there is no policy requiring registration of migrant children;
- Formal education is the priority of national and local governments in China as it is in all countries. Therefore YEM’s non-formal education of migrants has a challenge in gaining the attention and commitment of the formal education system;
- Effective international consultants are a challenge because of the unique and complex nature of China and the language issue. The result is sometimes a dubious contribution or at least delays caused by the document translation;
- Community centers where YEM is working are funded by local governments and are meant for local residents. It is challenging to expand their functions to serve the migrants;
- There are many good practices and experience in providing community-based services for migrants on the ground according to the situational analysis conducted under OP3.2. These practices however need to be institutionalized and scaled up.
1. Recommendations for YEM
Migrant Policy Advice to Government
The strategic purpose of YEM is to provide migrant policy advice to the Government of China. The YEM team needs to devote time and effort to this task in the second half. This means meetings to discuss, distil and clarify the policy messages YEM wants to make to the government. This should become a formal activity with a budget and plan in YEM’s second half. Each of YEM’s ten outputs needs to be analyzed for its policy implications and then written up. Finally a short twenty-page maximum integrated statement of YEM’s policy recommendations to government should be prepared with annexes elaborating on individual policy recommendations.
A Phase Two for YEM
National policy change in all countries is a long-term ten to twenty year process. In the evaluator’s opinion, YEM will not be able to make its full contribution to migration policy in thirty-six months. A more sustained period of policy analysis to support the Government of China is required. YEM effort needs to continue for at least an additional five years if it is to have its full impact in supporting the migrant policy change process.
Phase Two cannot be funded by MDGF. This means that the YEM team will have to solicit funding from other sources including the Government of China, participating UN agencies and perhaps some bilateral donors. It is suggested that YEM devote time and effort now to the design of a Phase Two so that funding can be arranged in a timely fashion to follow immediately upon completion of the current JP. Phase Two should not require as much funding since the basic project infrastructure and baseline studies have been completed by YEM.
A National Conference
YEM will have important achievements and lessons learned in the fields of migrant policy, employment and services. These achievements should be shared more broadly in China. One way of doing so is to hold a national conference at the JP’s conclusion to showcase achievements, techniques and lessons learned. A national conference will enhance the identity and self-esteem of the migrants in the nation’s affairs. It will also gain traction for more attention and resources to be devoted to migrants. The conference might be held in Tianjin, the JP’s core receiving area, to focus attention directly on YEM’s full range of receiving area pilots. YEM pilots, success stories and lessons learned need to be documented over the next 18 months so that they can be showcased in the conference.
Additional Suggestions for YEM to consider
In the course of this assignment the consultant observed a number of potential adjustments that the YEM team may be interested to explore as follows:
Position YEM closer to the migrants
This JP is centralized at the national level. Development experience shows that grass roots projects are most effective when located close to the target group, in this case the migrants. This means that the JP might have been better structured if it was located in the provincial or even the county seats with funding and management at this level. When projects are too remote from the target group, transaction costs increase and the management is too removed from the local reality. It is not too late to put more funding and decision-making down at the city/county level. Now that the research is complete and the pilots underway more JP funds could be diverted from the center to the pilots to strengthen them and enhance prospects for their sustainability.
Strengthen/Expand YEM Training
Training is at the heart of YEM effort. It pervades almost all ten outputs. Training effectiveness can enhance YEM impact significantly. The following will enhance YEM training impact:
YEM has not had the benefit of a professional training perspective. Training has been formulated by subject experts, e.g. labour law expert but there has been no training expert involvement to oversee training impact and effectiveness. YEM has encountered a number of training challenges that would have benefited from a professional trainer as for example, in TOT sessions, trainers are not comfortable incorporating health topics, particularly related to sexual and reproductive health into their training, and other contents that are perceived to be too technical. Many trainers were not familiar with the participatory training methodology. YEM would benefit from contracting a professional trainer with a mandate to review/monitor/advise the entire training effort.
Migrants, either by choice or by default, often make their way by starting their own business. Few have any experience or training on running their own business. YEM should expand its SIYB efforts both in its sending and receiving pilot sites so as to be able to provide more robust policy advice on this important topic.
Migrants face serious stress and anxiety. YEM’s health pilot should include a more developed mental health component in collaboration with the Ministry of Health’s announced pilot to offer free therapy to migrants.
Life Skills Training (LST) has proven to be important to the migrants. Migrants themselves are the best trainers because they have been through the migrant experience themselves. YEM should strive to recruit and train more migrants to be LST trainers in its second half.
YEM has important training experience to share with China’s public education sector, e.g. the participatory approach to classroom education, including migrants in the formal education system, using university volunteers to augment the education system. A strategy should be developed for how this sharing should be pursued so that the formal education sector benefits from YEM experience.
Develop a YEM publicity strategy
YEM needs to gain more publicity for its many useful research findings and pilot experiences by developing a publicity strategy. This strategy would promote YEM successes in all pilot localities as well as on the national media. A standard media package would be developed for use by all pilots in promoting the research and pilot experiences. Efforts would be made to engage local media to do programmes on the YEM pilots in their locality. YEM should refer to the MDGF Advocacy & Communications Strategy published by the MDGF Secretariat in New York.
Bring YEM activity together in its second half
Many of the separate YEM research initiatives and pilots feed into each other. There is an opportunity to enhance YEM impact in its second half by bringing these separate activities together. For example the health activity (Output 3.3) has conducted multi-stakeholder workshops in pilot sites (large participation of labor, education and other bureaus); as a result, several partnerships are in place: with the labor bureau in Cangzhou and in Xi’an (health promotion activities in vocational schools, training and employment centres and human resource markets), with TEDA Migrants Management Committee, Enterprises and Dormitories in Tianjin. In addition, the health partners have been invited to utilize the LST training in the health system: 9,200 copies of the 2.3 LST package (60 trainers’ guides and 9,200 participants’ handbooks) have been printed specifically for the 3.3 health partners in Tianjin, Cangzhou and Xi’an. These examples show how YEM has already begun to knit its activity together. This effort should be pursued and deepened in the second half of the programme.
Link with CDPF on the minority migration issue
YEM’s sister JP the Culture and Development Partnership Framework (CDPF) is working with the minorities. Migration is an important issue for the minorities since it is estimated that over 50 percent of the young minority generation is migrating. Some YEM research and training would be of use to CDPF in its pilots. As well, YEM may be able to build on research to date by separating out the specific and different needs of minority migrants with a view to adjusting policy and practice to accommodate minority needs.
Review YEM budget for second-half
After YEM has reviewed and decided on recommendations in this report it should review the remaining budget with a view to making the necessary adjustments since some of the recommendations have budget implications. All options for adjusting the budget should be explored including an across-the-board cut in UN agency budgets to accommodate new activity; re-allocation of funding within a given UN agency; re-allocation from one UN agency to another UN agency; and, eliminating some planned activity to accommodate new activity. A final option, if necessary, would be to seek more funding from the Government of China and/or the donor community. Toward this end, YEM should petition the MDGF Secretariat in New York for additional funds given that some of the JPs did not materialize and there may be funds available for YEM to strengthen its efforts and enhance sustainability going forward by implementing some of the recommendations in this report.
2. Recommendations for the MDGF Secretariat
The following recommendations are of a broader nature with potential application to all MDGF current or future JPs:
A UN Analysis of its Joint Programming
Based on MDGF experience, the UN may wish to conduct an analysis of its different joint programming efforts, e.g. MDGF, UNAIDS, the Joint Programme to Promote Human Rights of Women and Girls, the Multi-Donor Trust Fund, etc. with a view to identifying their strengths and weaknesses in terms of impact and transaction costs and articulating a joint programming model that builds on this experience.
Strengthening JP Sustainability
MDGF policy currently calls for the JP to terminate at the three year point. In the consultant’s opinion JP results will not be sustainable. It is understood that China MDGF JPs were quicker off the mark than those of other countries. Nonetheless, start-up activities such as establishing the JP office reduce the amount of time for actual JP implementation.
The scope and nature of change contemplated in the China JPs is such that it will take a generation or more to achieve. Therefore, stakeholders need to focus on sustainability going forward. Fortunately, much of the JP effort is undertaken by Chinese government and academic institutions. These institutions will then use the JP experience in their future effort. Everything possible should be done to make the JP’s research, operational procedures, tools and techniques such as training manuals part of the permanent operations of these institutions. In this way, sustainability is enhanced.
China’s JPs should give more emphasis to contracting and building capacity of local organizations. These organizations are permanent. Their involvement in the JP enhances sustainability.
As well, JP stakeholders should prepare a proposal for a second phase to be funded in part by the participating UN agencies, by government and through funds mobilization from selected bilateral donors such as the EU and DFID. A follow-on programme would not require as much funding as the JP because much of the research and technique will be in place. What is required is a small initiative to maintain the momentum of the current JP in its dialogue with government with respect to adjusting national policy to the needs of the migrants.
Improving the Joint Programme Mechanism
The Joint Programme mechanism is new and therefore naturally experiencing some difficulties. The following recommendations will help improve the mechanism
MDGF Secretariat is accountable
The MDGF Secretariat holds the funding and is therefore accountable for approving all MDGF JPs. In the opinion of the consultant, the Secretariat needs to play a stronger role in helping MDGF proponents to scale back their initiative. The Secretariat should approve all future MDGF prodocs and where warranted indicate options for cutting back the JP, e.g. reduce pilot sites, reduce number of UN and/or government participating agencies, reduce number of outputs, etc. but leave decisions about actual cuts up to JP management. But where it believes the JP too ambitious, it should insist on cutback of some kind before the JP goes ahead. Once implementation starts then the JP teams consisting of the NSC, the PMC and the JP team are accountable for implementation.
Re-visit MDGF Winning Proposals before start-up
The MDGF JP implementation team, once assembled, should be given the opportunity to re-visit the JP document. Where they conclude the JP is too ambitious they should table recommendations at the first Programme Management Committee meeting to reduce the scope or scale of the JP. The MDGF Secretariat should require this step as formal policy before any MDGF JP is officially launched. Often it is consultants who write the JP document who are not the same people tasked with implementing the JP. Thus the importance of giving the JP implementation team a buy-in to the JP by allowing them to adjust it at JP start-up to some degree.
One-UN Fund not separate UN agency funds
The logical solution to the complex finance and accounting arrangements whereby each participating UN agency holds its own money is to make the lead agency, in this case ILO or the JP team, the custodian of the funds. In this way all of the current complexity would be eliminated and the JP team can focus on implementation rather than complying with the complex reporting requirements of each participating UN agency. An added advantage of this proposal is that it would provide budget flexibility during implementation since funding could be increased or decreased to individual UN agencies as required. After all, UN agencies are quite capable of placing different donor monies into one pot inside their own agencies. They should be able to agree on this same principle for the MDGF.
Reporting requirements in the three MDGF JP’s evaluated by this consultant are onerous to the point of interfering with implementation. One-UN should mean one reporting system and not a separate system for each UN agency. Participating UN agencies should agree with the government on a single reporting system so that JP administrators can focus on JP implementation as opposed to burying themselves in the various reporting requirements. The irony of current reporting arrangements is that they do not give a clear financial picture since there are differences in budget lines and formats among the UN agencies and much guesswork as to what monies should be allocated to which budget line. A single reporting system would be more accurate and more informative.
Clarify decision making
Currently there is no clear decision authority. The high-level Programme Management Committee affirms overall direction of the JP as proposed by the JP team at its periodic meetings but does not and should not involve itself in day-to-day management. CETTIC, on behalf of MOHRSS, the lead government agency, makes decisions for its own involvement in the JP but has no authority over participating ministries. Similarly neither the RCO nor the International Project Coordinator has authority over participating UN agencies. YEM decisions are ultimately taken in internal meetings inside each government and UN agency by default. With such a fragmented management framework there can be no accountability for overall performance of the JP.
If all funding went to the lead UN agency or to the PMO implementation team it would give that agency authority and accountability for JP results. The PMC would endorse the JP plan for the period ahead put forward by the lead UN agency on the JP implementation team after discussions with other participating UN and government agencies. Once approved by the PMC JP partners should have full authority to proceed for the period of the work plan. Unforeseen circumstances should be addressed by the Head of the lead UN agency in discussion with government and UN partners or, in exceptional circumstances, by a meeting with the Co-Chairs of the PMC who would have authority to decide between PMC meetings.
Prepare MDGF Management & Accountability framework
Current management arrangements lack a clear line of authority and accountability. MDGF implementation would be enhanced if a new operating model could be developed which provides for a more unified command. Such a command could be achieved, for example, by giving the lead UN agency the MDGF budget and holding it accountable for management decisions and JP results.
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