The International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Netherlands have embarked on a joint initiative to strengthen labour inspection systems in Pakistan.

The partnership, described by the ILO as "unique," will support the country’s government, workers’ and employers’ organisations in improving the labour inspection process, ensuring the law is enforced, and partnering with the private sector – including apparel brands and retailers sourcing from Pakistan – to ensure companies comply.

Compliance with international labour standards is a key component of Pakistan’s GSP+ duty-free trade access to the European Union (EU), which came into force in January 2014.

Although Pakistan ratified the Labour Inspection Convention 1947 (No. 81) in 1953, there have been concerns that labour inspection must be strengthened. The Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR) has also identified a need to enforce legal provisions in the provinces.

A blueprint for occupational safety and health (OSH) in Pakistan has been in place in Sindh Province since 2013, following the 2012 factory fire in Ali Enterprises in Karachi, where 260 workers lost their lives and more than 1,000 lost their jobs.

The government now aims to refine this action plan and replicate it in other provinces.

The ILO’s partnership with the Netherlands in Pakistan has picked up the pace over the past 12 months.

Lilianne Ploumen, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, has emphasised the need for better working conditions in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Pakistan’s textile industry as a prerequisite for enhanced export to the European Union.

The textile industry is the country’s second largest economic sector after agriculture, and following Ploumen’s plea, over 100 labour inspectors have been trained in occupational safety and health.

Most recently – as reported on just-style yesterday (7 July) – the latest meeting of the Buyers’ Forum in Pakistan brought together large international brands such as H&M, Li& Fung, V&D, Gap India, and C&A.

The initiative was been created by the ILO, the Netherlands and the International Finance Cooperation (IFC) in December 2014, with buyers’ reaffirming their commitment to better work and environmental practices Pakistan’s textile and clothing sector.

Click on the following link for more insight: Brands back better labour practices in Pakistan.