Geneva—5 February 2021
Key global stakeholders in the apparel industry convened today under the umbrella of a recently launched EU-Better Work strategic partnership. This event marks the official announcement of their alliance to promote decent work and sustainable garment value chains. Better Work, a union between the UN’s International Labour Organization and the International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group, is dedicated to improving working conditions and boosting the competitiveness of the apparel sector in 9 key garment producing countries.
EU funding contributes to engagement at the factory, national and sectoral levels to address current challenges in Better Work countries, with a focus on Vietnam and Bangladesh.
The garment industry reported catastrophic losses in the first half of 2020. Only 3 in 5 workers returned to factory jobs, and women have been disproportionately affected. Better Work has supported factories as they reopen under new health and safety guidelines, developed virtual factory engagement services to continue to monitor working conditions during the pandemic and worked with industry partners to address practical and policy changes.
Ousseynou Nakoulima, IFC Western Europe Director, said: “We welcome the partnership with the European Commission through the Better Work programme to support the recovery of the garment industry, which was severely hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a priority for us, given the strong development impact of the sector in terms of quality jobs, particularly for women and young people.”
Marjeta Jager, Deputy Director General for the Department for International Partnerships (DG INTPA), EC, said, “The common efforts of the global community are bringing positive changes. In many factories across the world, the garment industry is helping people, especially women who represent 80% of the garment workforce, to get a decent job, a living wage and social protection. Better Work plays an important role in those improvements.”
Martha Newton, ILO Deputy DG of Policy, said, “Throughout 2020, Better Work supported hundreds of factories to implement COVID safe working practises. The programme devised new ways to communicate with workers, supported measures to address their concerns, and became a conduit for sharing the ILO’s policy advice on issues confronting employers and workers as the pandemic took its very destructive and unpredictable path. Better Work will be at the forefront of the ILO’s efforts to support a more equitable, resilient and sustainable garment industry.”
The partnership event came at the end of a significant week for the sector. The OECD Forum on Due Diligence in the Garment and Footwear Sector, Feb 2-4, primed participants for compelling conversation on how the apparel industry can rebuild more responsibly and sustainably in the continuing Covid-19 pandemic.