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ILO report: 43% RMG factories running with 50% workforce

ILO report revealed that about 43% of apparel suppliers in Bangladesh have been running with less than 50% of their pre-COVID-19 pandemic workforce in the 3rd quarter of 2020. The ILO study, ‘The supply chain ripple effect: How Covid-19 is affecting garment workers and factories in Asia and the Pacific’, was recently launched at a virtual briefing in Bangkok. The study covered readymade garment (RMG) factories in Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.

Figure: The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the garment manufacturing in the Asia Pacific region hard, with plunging retail sales in vital export markets affecting workers and factories all over the supply chains in the region.

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the garment manufacturing in the Asia Pacific region hard, with plunging retail sales in vital export markets affecting workers and factories all over the supply chains in the region.

As an effect, to stay sustain in the business, apparel manufacturers are reducing their workforce. It is worth to mention that most brands increased their pressure during the pandemic by canceling orders, not paying dues, or forcing to accept discounts.

The report said, “Factories operational at the start of the third quarter of 2020 – whether they had remained operational throughout or reopened – were reportedly not operating at their pre-pandemic capacity. Approximately 43% of suppliers in Bangladesh are operating with less than 50% of their pre-pandemic workforce.”

A worrying 3.9% of RMG suppliers retained their full workforce. Around 20% of suppliers are operating with around 30-39% of the workers, it added.

The report stated, from July, on average 57% of the workers are returning to work after reopening factories. And a total of 230,749 workers among Better Work Bangladesh’s (BWB) member factories – currently, 260 RMG factories are working with BWB – were still not working as factories reopened.

Chihoko Asada Miyakawa, ILO Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific said, “The Covid-19 has had a massive impact on the garment industry at every level. It is vital that governments, workers, employers and other industry stakeholders, work together to navigate these unprecedented conditions and help forge a more human-centered future for the industry.”

While Tuomo Poutiainen, Country Director, ILO Bangladesh said, “Thankfully, many RMG exporters have resumed operations over the past few months. At the same time, these resilient Bangladeshi enterprises and workforces are having to wrestle with the ongoing pandemic and ensuring safe conditions for all.”

“To this end, the ILO has supported the development of a national Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) guideline on COVID-19 to mitigate infections in workplaces,” Poutiainen added.

The report focused that by June 2020, total year-to-date imports from Bangladesh fell by as much as 29% compared to the same period in 2019. While 64% of apparel factories had received cancellations from customers in May 2020.

Another survey by Penn State Center for Global Workers’ Rights in March-2020, found 72% of buyers had not paid for raw materials and 91% had not paid for the production cost of already-produced goods to their Bangladeshi apparel suppliers, who canceled orders.

And till September 2020, almost half of all jobs in garment supply chains were dependent on demand for garments from consumers living in different countries.

ILO proposed a policy framework focusing on stimulating the economy and employment, supporting enterprises, jobs and incomes, protecting workers in the workplace to tackle the COVID-19 crisis. It also called for resource mobilization to safeguard jobs and livelihoods, including those in the garment sector.

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