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March 2, 2022

Better Work rolls out flagship programme in Sri Lanka

The International Labour Organization (ILO) and International Finance Corporation's (IFC) Better Work programme is launching an industry-level intervention in Sri Lanka, with the support of the European Union.

By Beth Wright

Better Work says the aim of its efforts in Sri Lanka is to strengthen the apparel industry recovering from the pandemic and work toward a future of increased resilience, efficiency, and sustainability.

The Better Work team will closely collaborate on the initiative with national partners – government, employers, workers, and their organisations. Traditional Better Work factory services, such as compliance assessments in individual manufacturers, will not be offered in Sri Lanka.

The garment industry is the largest exporter in Sri Lanka’s economy and employs a majority of women workers. Covid-19 slowed growth, but the industry started to recover in 2021 to US$5.1bn and has the ambitious goal to expand to $8bn by 2025.

“This flagship programme could not have arrived at a more appropriate time, as the country and the industry start to recover and rebuild from the pandemic. With Better Work’s extensive experience, tools, and partnerships, I am convinced the programme will succeed in exemplifying what a human-centred recovery means, with greater industry competitiveness and decent work for all,” says Simrin Singh, ILO firector for Sri Lanka and the Maldives. 

Better Work Sri Lanka will focus its interventions on:

  • Occupational Safety and Health, in the context of Covid-19 management and recovery, including using risk assessments, strengthening management systems, conducting leadership training and training of trainers, and awareness campaigns promoting improved mental health and well-being.
  • Gender, diversity and inclusion, including leadership skills training and career development for women workers, implementation of the ILO C190 toolkit addressing harassment and violence in the workplace, and facilitating access to pregnancy-related healthcare, childcare and maternity protection.
  • Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), including leadership and financial literacy training for SME management, implementation of a factory improvement toolkit including management systems and productivity interventions, and increasing visibility to supply chain partners.

The work builds off existing initiatives. Better Work’s presence in Sri Lanka began with its Academy initiative which involved engaging one of the country’s largest denim manufacturing groups, Orit Apparels Lanka, and its partner company Levi Strauss, on improving workplace cooperation and worker-manager dialogue.

The latest efforts also complements existing support IFC has been providing to the apparel sector, including the SheWorks initiative working through leading apparel manufacturers to advance gender equality in the workplace.

With an on-the-ground presence in 12 countries across three continents, Better Work brings diverse groups together – governments, global brands, factory owners, and unions and workers – to improve working conditions in the garment industry and make the sector more competitive.

Better Work programmes in key garment-producing countries adapted their training and outreach in response to the Covid-19 crisis last year.

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