Building Futures for Thailand: Support to Children Living in Construction Site Camps

from UN Children's Fund
Published on 23 Mar 2018 View Original


This report is based on in-depth interviews with migrant children and parents, real estate and construction companies, government Ministries, and NGOs. It explores the challenges faced by children living in construction site camps, and suggests solutions that can be scaled to foster social responsibility within Thailand’s construction sector.

This study shows that it is possible to provide effective support to migrant children living in construction site camps throughout Thailand, and that this support is beneficial for both children and private sector stakeholders. These key stakeholders are real estate and construction companies who are becoming increasingly aware that small investments in support of these kids can lead to enormous gains in their lives, and that these investments can even lead to beneficial results for the company’s business and operations. While support currently exists for a small fraction of these children, it is possible to achieve for all of these children in Thailand.

In order to determine the most successful investments that support these children, this study contains three key chapters that:

  1. Clarify the challenges faced by migrant children living in construction site camps in Thailand through new data and evidence.

  2. Identify current initiatives that effectively help children overcome these challenges through private sector partnerships.

  3. Put forth a Framework for Action in order to structure and scale these initiatives to support all of these children throughout Thailand.

The challenges that have been identified and clarified through in-depth interviews with migrant children and parents focused on the areas of infrastructure, child protection, and access to health and education services. Highlights of these findings include the following.

Concerning the physical infrastructure of the construction site camps where children grow up, participants reported issues such as inadequate showers and toilets, and they also reported electrical hazards that have led to serious accidents. Notably, child and parent participants reported a strong desire to have showers that are separated by gender (almost 90% of participants). When asked about overall satisfaction with their living environments, children placed high importance on social opportunities within the camp; they expressed desire to have other children for more friends in the community, and to have more activities and toys to be able to play.

Relevant issues related to child protection were explored, including access to essential services (given the examples of health and education); identification documentation; and vulnerability to social exclusion and discrimination, family separation, domestic violence, and child labor. It was reported that there is a lack of routine information-sharing about services for newly arriving families to the camps. It was determined that networks of employees and community leaders currently exist within most camps, but participants reported that there is a lack of routine information-sharing about services for newly arriving families to the camp. These networks represent a clear opportunity for routine training and information-sharing about access to essential services for families.

For access to health services, challenges were found to include access to vaccinations and health cards. Since vaccinations are both a public health priority and a necessary health measure for individuals, this challenge highlights another opportunity to provide priority support to these children. The main barriers to obtaining health cards were reported to be the cost and required documents, which are challenges that can also be overcome through several approaches to support (e.g., information-sharing that leads to improved access to documentation services, life skill training on financial literacy).

For access to education services, it is reported by a variety of stakeholders – both companies and NGOs familiar with the conditions of construction site camps – that many children living in these camps do not attend school. As all children in Thailand have the right to attend school, barriers include lack of transportation to local public schools, the ability of families to pay school costs, and the need for older children to act as child caretakers and look after younger siblings while the parents are at work.

After clarifying the children’s challenges through interviews with them and their parents, we reviewed current initiatives from NGOs and CSOs that support these children in Bangkok, Samut Sakhon, Chiang Mai, Sangkhlaburi, Mae Sot, and Pattaya, with a special focus on initiatives that involve private sector collaboration with real estate and construction companies. Since private sector stakeholders play a significant role in the living conditions of migrant workers, such multi-stakeholder partnerships between social sector actors and private companies (in addition to government) are especially relevant for achieving support to migrant children living in construction site camps. Sustainable Development Goal 17 Partnerships for the Goals establishes the importance of multi-stakeholder partnerships, which engage a range of actors to address development issues and achieve sustainable progress.

The initiatives presented in this documentation project were also selected for the range of children’s challenges that they address, through the creation of safe spaces to vaccination campaigns. Six current multi-stakeholder initiatives are highlighted, all implemented through partnerships with real estate and construction companies:

• A safe space in construction site camps – Sansiri with Visavapat + UNICEF + Baan Dek Foundation

• Non-formal education support - Narai Property and Foundation for Better Life of Children

• Improvements in safety, and Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) – Chiang Mai Rimdoi + Baan Dek Foundation

• Training sessions on access to health, education and safety services – Pingnakorn + Baan Dek Foundation

• Vaccination campaign – Sansiri with Contractors + WHO + UNICEF

• Learning centers – Areeya Property + Local NGO

In order to advance these initiatives from a limited numb er of construction site camps to all children living in construction site camps throughout Thailand, a Framework for Action is proposed in order to structure and scale these recommended forms of support. This Framework for Action provides general guidelines for improving the infrastructure of these camps where children are growing up and the children’s access to child protection and health and education services. These general guidelines are complemented by specific examples of recommended improvements (e.g.,updates to a camp’s WASH systems, training already existing camp networks in routine access to medical centers and local public schools).

Altogether, these elements show promising ways to improve the environments in which these children grow up, child protection, and their access to essential health and education services. By investing in the recommended forms of support, companies even report certain benefits to their business operations – ranging from increased brand value to improved workforce retention (see Section 2.3 Benefits for companies). This project therefore carves out a clear path toward the future of support to these children: moving from sporadic initiatives to large-scale improvements that make children’s well-being the norm across the construction sector nationwide.