Discussion Paper 30: An Impact Evaluation of Better Work from a Gender Perspective

29 Apr 2019

Since the 1970s, the rise of export-oriented industrialization in the developing world has increased the demand for female labour and, consequently, has sparked a debate on the consequences of the “feminization” of labour, not only for women, but also for gender equality in countries experiencing industrial expansion.

Beginning in 2010, Tufts University’s Labor Lab has analysed the causal impact of Better Work. More than 14,000 worker survey responses have been processed from participating factories located in Jordan, Indonesia, Vietnam, Nicaragua, and Haiti.

Drawing from the worker survey data collected during the period from 2010 to 2016, this paper takes differences in workers’ educational level and stage in the life cycle as likely determinants of differences among sub-groups of women.

The programme’s overall impact is thus analysed through three interrelated dimensions:

♦ Work attributes, especially pay, hours of work, and promotions;

♦ Concerns and voice, including about sexual harassment, physical and verbal abuse;

♦ Health and wellbeing, specifically physical and mental health.

The result is that exposure to Better Work has a positive impact on gender gaps in wages and hours of work, as well as concerns about overtime, in most country programmes. Changes are most evident for women with children and with lower levels of formal education relative to all the other women, suggesting that improved compliance with labour standards is most beneficial for workers in relatively more vulnerable positions.

Better Work, a partner programme of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), seeks to foster gender equality, reduce sexual harassment, and close the gender pay gap in the global garment industry, through targeted factory initiatives and by strengthening policies and practices at the national, regional, and international levels.

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