Progress and Potential

1 Dec 2022

How Better Work is improving garment workers’ lives and boosting factory competitiveness

To measure the impact of Better Work on workers’ lives and business, our programme has continually promoted rigorous external research using our data.   Since the beginning of our programme’s operations, we prioritized establishing an independent impact assessment of programme activities. A multidisciplinary team from Tufts University was selected to undertake this research, and from 2009-2015 they gathered and analysed nearly 15,000 survey responses from garment workers and 2,000 responses from factory managers in Haiti, Indonesia, Jordan, Nicaragua and Vietnam. This unique dataset served as a basis for identifying and explaining changes observed in working conditions and business outcomes in factories participating in Better Work.

The researchers used different experimental strategies to evaluate the impact of the programme. These included a strategy to isolate the impact of the programme using randomised intervals of time – reflecting factories’ different periods of exposure to Better Work services – as well as a randomised controlled trial to evaluate the impact of the supervisory skills training.

By capturing this unique set of data and by establishing a rigorous analytical framework and methodology, the researchers were able to test – often for the first time – hypotheses on multiple issues including human resource management strategies, firm organization and global supply chain dynamics. Their assessment is an invaluable contribution to the world’s understanding of labour in global supply chains. The programme summarized the findings from the external report in the Better Work publication “Progress and Potential” in 2016.

The findings from the impact assessment were central to inform the design of our programme interventions in its current Stage IV, and in providing a rigorous evidence base for our policy advocacy with national and global stakeholders.

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Key findings

Better Work’s impact on working conditions

The impact assessment demonstrates the causal effect of the Better Work programme on a wide range of working conditions in garment factories.

♦ Preventing abusive practices (forced labour, verbal abuse, sexual harassment)

♦ Curbing excessive overtime

♦ Closing the gender pay gap

Better Work’s impact on firm performance

Tufts researchers explored the impact of Better Work on firm performance from multiple angles: productivity, profitability, position in the supply chain and order sizes.

Productivity Supervisory Skills Training (SST), particularly among female supervisors, increases productivity by 22 per cent. Discover more results about the SST course.

Profitability Factories experience a rise in profitability (measured as the ratio of total revenue versus total costs) due to their participation in the programme.

The work completed as part of this impact assessment has also prompted new research questions and research design strategies used throughout the expanded network of Better Work countries. Further description of current research priorities for the programme can be found here.

Highlights: Progress and Potential

Findings from an independent impact assessment

This short document highlights main findings from the Tufts University Impact Assessment of the Better Work programme. It includes information on Better Work’s impact on working conditions, firm performance, on the programme’s trainings, assessments and advisory services and the impact beyond the workplace.

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Progress and Potential

This report is a detailed summary of key findings from the Tufts University Impact Assessment.

It includes:

Description of the Tufts study survey methodology, sample surveys and response data as well as graphs and charts of key data findings;
Analysis of Better Work’s impact on working conditions, and effect on businesses involved in the programme including data that indicates improved factory profitability and productivity;
Evidence relating factory compliance levels and the experience of workers on the floor;
An assessment of the differing impact of Better Work’s assessment, advisory and training services; and
The implications of Better Work involvement for workers’ families and broader community.

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The Impact of Better Work

Full academic report produced by Tufts University (437 pages).

The evaluation of Better Work employed a multi-disciplinary approach. The Impact Evaluation began in 2009 with key informant interviews in each country. Key informants included Better Work staff, government officials, the ILO, union organizations, manufacturer’s associations and workers. Data for analysis included survey and interview data collected from workers, supervisors and firm managers. Analysis begins by exploring the empirical relevance of the theory underlying Better Work. Analysis of the impact evaluation data begins with a theory developed to isolate the determinants of each working condition or collection of working conditions that are jointly determined. Better Work impact evaluation data is then employed to test the theory and determine whether Better Work is disrupting processes the lead to poor work outcomes and supporting processes that promote good work outcomes. The analysis also yields information on the impact of compliant behavior on firm performance.

Visit the Tufts Labor Lab website for more information

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Improving working conditions in garment industry: burden or boost to factories’ bottom line

Prof. Drusilla Brown, from Tufts University, joined Better Work Chief Dan Rees and host Peter Forster in a live discussion on the results of the impact assessment.

The most popular Better Work course, the Supervisory Skills Training was specially designed for production managers and supervisors who supervise the production workforce. Independent research has found that where supervisors are trained by Better Work, production lines are as much as 22% more productive, as workers reach production targets more quickly.

Learn more about our training and discover the results of the impact assessment about this training on an interactive website.

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