Better Work Bangladesh was launched in 2014 with a clear focus—to help build a competitive garment industry that provides decent jobs to workers, good business for factories and brands, and economic development for the country.
As a unique partnership between the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), Better Work Bangladesh has been working with workers, employers and government to create lasting change in the industry through our core services – Advisory, Assessments, and Training.
As well as advising garment factories, we collaborate with the Government of Bangladesh to improve labour laws, and with brands to ensure the progress is sustained. As a result of their participation with Better Work Bangladesh, factories have steadily improved compliance with ILO core labour standards and national legislation covering compensation, contracts, occupational safety and health and working time. Factories affiliated with Better Work Bangladesh continue to demonstrate advanced worker-management dialogue, effective management systems and full commitment to staff learning.
During the initial stages of the programme, Better Work Bangladesh worked with the government to better align certain elements of the labour code with international labour standards. To this end, labour law amendments and improvements to union registration criteria were made, leading to the registration of approximately 150 new factory-level unions.
In addition to our tried-and-tested methods to tackle the root causes of non-compliance in factories, Better Work Bangladesh has a specific focus on improving working conditions and opportunities for women, advancing their productivity and career progression, as well as their health and safety. For example, in partnership with the IFC, the Gender Equality and Returns (GEAR) initiative trained 144 female workers in the pilot phase; 58 of whom are now in supervisory roles with a 39 percent increase in salary. GEAR is being scaled up to train 700 female operators and their managers in 70 factories. With UNICEF, Better Work Bangladesh has been promoting breastfeeding and maternity rights for working mothers in 80 garment factories.
Currently, our operations cover factories in major garment industry belts in greater Dhaka region and Chattagram. Plans are underway to further expand operations with the aim of having 400 factories in the programme by 2021.
The country’s largest export earner, the garment sector in Bangladesh employs four million workers – of whom around 60% are women – working in over 4,500 garment factories. In Better Work Bangladesh partner factories, 56% workers are women. Bangladesh currently ranks as the second largest exporter of ready-made garments in the world. In 2019, Bangladesh’s garment exports were estimated at US$34.13 billion.