Understanding impact: Research insights from Better Work 2017-2022
The global garment industry has the potential to contribute to job-rich growth, which is well-recognized as a key element for recovery from recent global shocks and to a human-centred future of work. At the same time, if the millions of jobs in this sector are not decent and well regulated, workers risk exploitative conditions that keep them further from social and economic development. Better Work, a joint initiative of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), works in 12 garment producing countries to raise compliance with international labour standards and national laws, while also improving the competitiveness of participating firms. It combines compliance assessments in factories with advisory services and training at the factory and industry levels. The programme focuses on communication and social dialogue both at the workplace and sector-wide to support its dual aims. As the ILO’s flagship programme for the garment industry, Better Work builds on the Organization’s tripartite structure of engagement with national governments, employers’ organizations and workers’ organizations, and it combines this with a strong partnership with global supply chain actors, such as global brands, retailers, and global manufacturers. The ILO’s convening role, and expertise in the sector, can be leveraged in conjunction with government agencies and labour inspectorates, employers’ associations and trade unions, as well as firms in the supply chain in order to build their capacity, facilitate and strengthen social dialogue, promote the gradual transition to formality and help build resilience through stronger systems of social protection.
Since the early stages of the programme, Better Work has invested in impact evaluation research to identify the causal impact of the programme’s activities in the global garment sector on working conditions, firm performance, and the socioeconomic status of workers and their families. Impact evaluations identified and quantified the positive outcomes driven by Better Work in workers’ lives, within and outside the workplace, and in businesses’ productivity and profitability.