What are the issues at stake
Sixty million workers across the developing world rely on the garment industry for their livelihoods. Over 80 per cent are women and garment work is their point of entry into the job market. Asia alone accounts for 70 per cent of world clothing and textile exports.
While factories are a valuable source of jobs and can offer opportunities for workers and their families to earn their own income, the sector is still characterized by high volatility, low predictability and generally low profit margins. Production is generally subcontracted to suppliers in different countries, leading to fierce competition that brings costs down. Additionally, the sector remains among the most labour-intensive, despite advances in technology and workplace practices.
As the global garment industry is likely to be a critical engine for social and economic development in the coming years, it is important to strengthen labour law enforcement mechanisms, so as to improve working and employment conditions, including minimum wages, and enhance occupational safety and health in the RMG sector.
The peculiarities of the RMG sector, characterized by recurrent industrial accidents in Bangladesh, Pakistan and other countries, have led to a global commitment and measures not only to improve safety, but to make safety and decent working conditions the factor that gives major textile industries their competitive advantage. There is now a strong conviction that business cannot continue as usual and that fundamental changes relating to safety, inspection and compliance need to be made if the lives of RMG workers are to be safeguarded and the confidence of global buyers retained.