Better Work Egypt First Annual Report: Challenges and Highlights

4 Sep 2023

Better Work Egypt’s first annual report highlights the assessment results collected from its partner factories, their improvement efforts and key initiatives registered throughout 2022.

CAIRO, Egypt, 30 August 2023– Better Work Egypt has published its first annual report featuring assessment results from 57 participating factories between January- December 2022, using the programme’s Compliance Assessment Tool (CAT), Representatives from the Ministry of Labour, workers’ organizations, the Federation Of Egyptian Industries (FEI), and the Apparel Export Council of Egypt discussed the report’s findings during a tripartite meeting on June 1st.

Information included in the Annual Report is set to provide a sector snapshot, help improve working conditions in the local garment industry, and foster tripartite cooperation among Egypt’s Ministry of Labour, employers’ organisations, and trade unions. 

Better Work compliance assessments are carried out during a 2-day unannounced visit, with assessors combining direct observations, document review and interviews with workers and managers to detect cases not compliant with the national labour law and international labour standards across the factory floor. Such non-compliance findings are then used to help factories identify areas in need of improvement. Collecting and reporting this data over time also helps factories demonstrate their commitment to improving working conditions.

Better Work’s most common non-compliance findings in Egypt in 2022 fall under the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) cluster, including lack of emergency preparedness, limited worker protection and a scarcity of health services and first aid equipment.

Failure to comply with OSH regulations poses a serious threat to the workers’ health and safety.

A high non-compliance rate for emergency preparedness was registered among Better Work-participating factories. This shows that further advancements are needed in this area to ensure that OSH standards, related guidelines, and incident reporting protocols are recognized and applied at the factory level, in accordance with international and national laws.

Also, expanding the cooperation between Better Work and the OSH committees present in each factory was identified as a way to facilitate the implementation of policies related to this area of non-compliance, especially in the form of provisions of personal protective equipment (PPE) and health services for the workers.

Following the assessments, Better Work has taken significant steps to achieve a sustainable implementation of OSH regulations among its partner factories in Egypt. By the end of 2022, the programme completed and submitted more than half of the OSH-related improvement plans it discussed with each of its affiliated businesses during advisory services throughout the year. These plans include trainings in the safe handling of chemicals and hazardous substances and an overview of the needs of firefighting and fire detection systems in the factory premises. Better Work will continue to support the implementation of sustainable practices to address OSH challenges in Egypt as part of its mandate.

The ready-made garment (RMG) industry is a backbone of the Egyptian economy. The apparel sector accounts for 3% of the country’s GDP, and 27% of its industrial output. But only around 350 factories of the approximately 6,500 factory total are exporting factories.

The US and EU global markets continue to be the largest importers for RMG, with a total of $1.3 billion and $504 million in 2022.

 Still, the ongoing global economic crisis, which has been exacerbated by the the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine conflict, resulted in reduced export orders, presenting new challenges to the local textile and garment sector. Impacts have included cancellation of orders and sourcing payment delays. 

Within this context, a dramatic decline in employment, both in terms of the number of jobs and total hours of work, have led to a steep revenue decline across the industry. 

Factory managers also expressed concern about “chaotic and unstandardized” brands’ auditing procedures, with third-party auditors taking a punitive approach, rather than a remedy-oriented one.

The findings of the report, coupled with the industry stakeholders’ insights, helped establish benchmarks for measuring the progress of Better Work’s next phase in the country.

The highlight of improvement areas and partnership opportunities included in the report will contribute to developing the programme’s future initiatives, addressing the decent work deficits in the textile and garment sector, in line with its 2022-2027 country strategy.

This roadmap ensued from continuous discussions and engagement between the programme and its local and international partners. During this time, Better Work also conducted initial consultations to measure its effectiveness, gaps, and alignment with the national stakeholders’ goals.

Better Work will continue to offer its factory engagement model across Egypt’s garment industry. The model combines elements of assessment, advisory, and training sessions, particularly set to improve social dialogue across the factory floor and at the national level. In its future interventions, the programme aims to increasingly focus on stakeholder engagement, technical assistance and data sharing — all of which are fundamental elements planned for the current strategic period.

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