Switzerland commits to improving working conditions in the global garment industry
Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) announced today that it will continue to support Better Work, a flagship programme of the International Labour Organization jointly managed by the International Finance Corporation. The four-year investment will help lift millions of people out of poverty by promoting decent work, driving business competitiveness and encouraging inclusive economic growth in the global garment industry. This sector employs some 60 million people across the developing world, 80 per cent of them women.
The announcement came on the first day of the World Trade Organization’s “Aid for Trade” conference taking place from 11-13 July in Geneva. In order to reach even more people along the garment supply chain, SECO will continue to support the programme in Asia and especially in its partner countries Indonesia and Vietnam with a contribution of 12 million Swiss francs (12,470,000 US dollars) between 2017 and 2021. It represents Switzerland’s firm commitment to enhancing international trade and competitiveness while also creating more and better jobs that support countries’ social and economic development.
Switzerland has been a core donor of Better Work since 2009, helping the programme grow to reach 1,450 clothing and footwear factories and 1.9 million workers across four continents.
Better Work’s recent independent impact assessment demonstrated the programme’s ability to improve working conditions while boosting firm performance and enhancing the lives of workers and their families. The report showed, for example, that factories participating in the programme achieved up to a 25 per cent increase in profitability. Furthermore it says that Better Work had a notable and positive impact on working conditions such as abusive practices, weekly pay, contracts and working hours. The report also indicated that Better Work has decreased the gender pay gap by up to 17 per cent, and that empowering women is a key step to improving working conditions and productivity of workers as well as the health and education of their children.
“As delegates from around the world gather in Geneva to discuss how trade can support the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Better Work provides a concrete and successful example of how better business practices promote decent work, gender equality and better living conditions for millions of people”, said SECO Head of Economic Cooperation and Development, Raymund Furrer.
“Switzerland’s commitment to Better Work will continue to help us significantly scale our impact”, said Dan Rees, Director of the programme at the International Labour Organization. “As part of our new strategy, we will leverage existing and new partnerships to expand our reach to workers tenfold, influence business practices in the international garment industry and use our data and experience to reshape the global policy dialogue on decent work”, he added.
Switzerland—along with Australia, the Netherlands and the United States—is a major development partner to Better Work, and collaborates closely with representatives of international apparel brands, academia, unions and employers’ organisations to provide strategic inputs to the programme.