Garment factory

GENEVA The coronavirus is having a devastating effect on workers and employers in all sectors and triggering massive losses in output and jobs, with textiles and apparel particularly hard-hit, the International Labor Organization said Tuesday.

In the textiles and apparel industries, the ILO said in an impact assessment that “quarantine measures have suppressed consumer demand. In Bangladesh, order cancellations have led to lost revenue of about $3 billion, affecting some 2.17 million workers.”

The agency said in Bangladesh it is estimated that “less than 20 percent of firms are able to continue paying staff wages for more than 30 days under these circumstances…”

Similarly, in Vietnam, another major apparel exporting nation, the ILO estimated 440,000 to 880,000 workers “could face reduced hours or unemployment.”

Alette van Leur, ILO director for sectoral policies, said ILO member states “are taking unprecedented measures to protect frontline workers and to lessen the impact on businesses, livelihoods and the most vulnerable…”

In particular, ILO economists note factory and retail store closures around the planet “have threatened the viability of enterprises…”

Indeed, Casper Edmonds, ILO director for manufacturing, told WWD that in a recent virtual meeting with Guy Ryder, ILO director-general, representatives from the International Apparel Federation, an employers umbrella grouping, “called for solidarity across the global supply chain.”

IAF, which represents apparel industries in about 60 countries, in a statement to Ryder said “apparel manufacturers immediately feel the economic pain of canceled orders and no new orders coming in.”

The ILO analysis notes that some major buyers have committed to “paying for all orders already in production or completed. In Bangladesh, for example, H&M, Inditex, Kiabi, (with deferred payments) and Target and VF have committed to payment.” But it added, “many other major buyers have still not done so.”

The ILO said it has urged governments to extend social protection to all and is advising on measures “to promote employment retention, short-time work, paid leave and other subsidies.”

Some apparel-producing nations, however, have implemented a series of measures to support the apparel industry, it said.

The government in Myanmar has unveiled an initial $70 million stimulus package targeting the garment and tourism sectors, while in Sri Lanka in areas where factories have temporarily shut down under government orders, workers are entitled to paid leave.

Meanwhile, in Cambodia, the ILO said the government has issued instructions that “suspended workers can receive 40 percent of their salary from their employer and an additional 20 percent from the government.”

Moreover, Cambodia, it said, has also “suspended National Social Security Fund contributions for garment and textile factories affected by a shortage of raw materials due to COVID-19.”

Finally, the ILO said as part of the ILO-International Finance Corporation Better Work Program, a task force was created in Bangladesh with the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, interested buyers and U.N. entities to support the production of level one personal protective equipment in order to address the urgent needs and build capacity for future investments in higher-level PPE production.

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