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'Better conditions can empower female garment workers'
30
Sep '15
C: Steve Dorst / World Bank
C: Steve Dorst / World Bank
Better conditions for garment workers can boost productivity while empowering the industry's largely female workforce both inside and outside factory walls, a new World Bank Group study finds.

The study titled 'Interwoven: How the Better Work Programme Improves Job and Life Quality in the Apparel Sector', assesses the impact of improvements under the Better Work programme - a partnership launched in 2001 by IFC, a member of the World Bank
Group (WBG), and the International Labour Organization (ILO).

"The findings in this report are encouraging," WBG Senior Director for Jobs Nigel Twose said. "Here we have more evidence of just how and under what circumstances better working conditions can improve performance, reduce turnover, and contribute to a more robust, more sustainable bottom line."

The garment industry provides a vital first step out of poverty for tens of millions of mostly female workers globally—and an alternative to low-skilled agriculture and service work. But it has long been associated with low wages, long hours, discrimination, abuse, and other conditions that put workers' health and safety at risk.

"Women globally and particularly in developing and emerging economies need more good jobs. This is vital to tackling persistent gender gaps—a development imperative if we are to achieve our goals of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared growth," WBG Senior Director for Gender Caren Grown said.

"This report highlights important links between better work and better lives for women and men, and better, more inclusive growth."

The Better Work Programme trains local monitors to make unannounced inspections and bring factories into compliance with national laws and international standards through auditing, advisory, and training services.

As of 2014, according to Better Work, the programme had helped improve working conditions for some 1 million workers in more than 1,000 factories across eight countries - Bangladesh, Cambodia, Haiti, Indonesia, Jordan, Lesotho, Nicaragua, and Vietnam.

Field research in Cambodia, Kenya, Lesotho, and Vietnam found similarities in how workers in each country defined "job quality": To them, a “good job” meant fair pay and benefits, collegial relations with managers and supervisors, and work-life balance, facilitated by reasonable work hours. (SH)

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