The initiative provides direct support to garment sector workers, especially women

The initiative provides direct support to garment sector workers, especially women

The German government has partnered with the International Labour Organization (ILO) to launch a programme aimed at protecting garment sector workers affected by Covid-19.

The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) is giving EUR14.5m (US$17.1m) to the multi-donor initiative to help workers in seven countries: Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Madagascar and Vietnam.

The scheme will provide cash transfers and personal protective equipment (PPE) and deliver awareness raising campaigns on occupational safety and health (OSH). It will also provide policy advice on social protection and OSH, with the aim of building peoples' resilience to future shocks. The approach links work to meet immediate humanitarian needs with that of building longer term, sustainable solutions that are part of national policy frameworks.

"A key lesson from Covid-19 is that it is essential to immediately support both businesses in their efforts to survive and the workers that lose jobs and income," says ILO deputy director-general for field operations and partnerships, Moussa Oumarou. "Such immediate humanitarian support must be part of the longer-term plan to build back better."

The restrictions and health measures related to Covid-19, and the accompanying general business uncertainty, have had a devastating socio-economic impact on workers and employers in the global garment supply chain. Many producing factories have reduced or temporarily suspended their activities. Some have closed entirely. Consequently, many workers have had their hours reduced or have been laid off, most without any severance payment or unemployment benefits. As a result, a large number of poor workers, primarily women, have lost their income, the ILO says.

The multi-donor programme's integrated strategy aims to assist both workers and private sector businesses rebuild their economic activities, mitigate further interruptions in the supply chain, and provide direct support to garment sector workers, especially women.

The initiative will build on the country level activities of three existing ILO areas of work – the Vision Zero Fund (VZF), social protection, and the Better Work Programme – making use of their existing local networks and operations.

The programme will also support the practical implementation of the Call to Action in the global garment industry. By helping to coordinate public and private sector responses to the pandemic, the project also contributes to the overall efficiency and coherence of responses to the crisis.

"For example, young mothers and workers particularly at risk of falling into poverty will receive one-off support payments. And we are building up testing capacities in order to protect workers' health," says German Development Minister Gerd Müller. "With these measures we are making it possible to preserve hundreds of thousands of jobs. For this we are working with the International Labour Organization, which we initiated together with the German Labour Ministry. The measures are part of our global Emergency Covid-19 Support Programme."

The BMZ contribution will allow work to begin rapidly and on a global scale. Other funding contributions are needed to allow this work to support all those in need, says the ILO.