Drug rehabilitation center hosts job fair

A job fair held at Shanghai Women's Drug Rehabilitation Center yesterday, over 60 enterprises offered more than 440 jobs.

Zhang Hua, a 42-year-old drug addict being treated at Shanghai Women’s Drug Rehabilitation Center, got a job offer yesterday at a recruitment fair organized at the center.

The fair was the largest ever held at a local rehab center. Over 60 enterprises offered more than 440 jobs at the fair yesterday, which coincided with the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.

About 205 addicts, including Zhang, received offers during the fair and will go to work after their release.

“It’s hard for people with a history of drug abuse to find jobs by ourselves,” she said. “The authority’s help is extremely needed and I’m so grateful.”

Zhang is on her fourth stint in the center for compulsory drug rehabilitation. She says a lack of stable employment is a factor behind her continued struggle with addiction.

Zhang used to work as a model and then as an airline stewardess. In 1994 when she traveled to Thailand, she tried heroin at a local pub, which changed her life completely.

She was put into rehab for the first time in 1996. After she was released in 1998, one of her friend recommended her to a bank, where she worked for nearly three years under a temporary employment contract. But when the bank planned to sign an official contract with her and did a further background check, she was fired when they found her drug record. In her distress she turned to former friends, and former habits involving narcotics.

The cycle of employment, termination and drug abuse repeated for Zhang. According to her CV, she worked for another three financial companies, including Morgan Stanley, and each job ended like the first.

But the fair yesterday at the rehab center has given Zhang confidence again.

“When I was looking for jobs by myself previously, I dared not tell employers about my drug problem in fear that they would discriminate against me and reject me,” she said. “But the companies that showed up ... already know our problems and are still willing to come and hire us. It means they will accept us. It makes me feel a little bit assured.”

Zhang will be released in March. She says she will cherish the opportunity to work hard and return to normal life.

The Shanghai rehabilitation administration is treating employment as a pathway to improve the success of treatment and reduce rates of relapse.

According to the administration, about two thirds of the 6,000 or so addicts in rehab centers have only a middle-school education or less, and 43 percent were unemployed before being put in rehab.

To promote employability, rehab centers have been providing education and vocational training for addicts, in fields such as plumbing, property management, hairdressing, tea art, flower arrangement and auto repair. This year alone, 732 people have finished training in at least one area.

In a survey of 5,333 released addicts, 90 percent said they still had difficulties getting employment. For many, such problems are a major obstacle toward reintegration into society.

To address the problems of employment, the administration cooperated with the city’s human resources and social security bureau to organize the job fair yesterday.

They surveyed the addicts to learn about the jobs they preferred and talked to related enterprises.

Yu Haiyang, a human resources director at a company which took part in the fair, said companies should shoulder the social responsibility to help recovering addicts restart life with a clean slate.

The authorities also provided lectures guiding addicts on interview skills, communication and group work to prepare them for the job fair and their future careers.

The jobs offered at the fair were mainly in manufacturing, service and sales industries and the average salary ranged between 3,000 to 5,000 yuan (US$456 to US$760) per month, while some even offering more than 8,000 yuan per month.

More such fairs will be held as the rehabilitation administration and the human resources and social security bureau have made them a long-term plank in anti-drug efforts.

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