Pakistan has a long history in the textile and garment industry, and it is considered one of the most important manufacturing sectors in the economy. The sector employs nearly half of the national labour force, and the ILO has a robust presence in the country.
Despite challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, a three-year Better Work pilot programme will be set up in 2021 after several years of consultations between Better Work and the tripartite constituents in Pakistan. The barriers preventing travel to the country and holding face-to-face consultations has slowed progress, but nevertheless, the Government of Pakistan has agreed to co-fund the three-year pilot programme through the Export Development Fund (EDF). The European Commission and Australia (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, DFAT) are also supporting the Better Work Pakistan programme.
In addition to Better Work`s factory-facing work, the Government, employer and worker organizations of Pakistan and the Better Work programme have agreed upon several areas of focus to improve the sector’s labour conditions and competitiveness. These include work on the enabling environment for freedom of association and collective bargaining, labour dispute resolution mechanisms, as well as general capacity building of tripartite constituents with the aim to promote more inclusive social dialogue. The work on these issues has been formalized in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which is expected to be signed in mid-2021 and then reviewed on an annual basis. In parallel to the finalization of this agreement, Better Work is already preparing its operational set-up of the programme. The office will be based in Karachi.
Planned timeline for Better Work Pakistan set-up
July – September 2021: Recruitment of first group of Pakistan-based staff
By September 2021: Signing of the MOU with the constituents in Pakistan and finalization of the funding agreement with the Government of Pakistan
September – December 2021: Onboarding of first group of enrolled factories
January 2022: Start of work at sectoral level and strategic engagement with representatives of the Government, employers and workers as per the MOU
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