31st Sea Games - Vietnam 2021 Covid-19 Pandemic
May 20, 2022 / 11:34

Better gender equality towards resilient future for Vietnam’s garment, footwear

Empowering women workers drives and sustains compliance, increases productivity and profitability, improves dialogue, health and education outcomes for workers and their families.

Empowering women will help to build forward better Vietnam’s garment and footwear sectors from the Covid-19 crisis, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO).

 Female laborers are working at TNG Dong Hy factory. Photo: TNG

The result was released after ILO carried out a flagship program - Better Work Vietnam, in which it has closely worked with its member factories to reduce risks of gender discrimination and developed guidelines with an emphasis on gender dimensions to support factories in handling suspensions, retrenchment, and occupational safety and health during the pandemic.

The program has also given greater priority to gender equality in recognition of the disproportional impacts of the crisis on women’s health, care duties, and discrimination.

In collaboration with IFC, amid the first waves of Covid-19 in 2020, Better Work Vietnam launched the GEAR (Gender Equality and Returns) project to help factories improve line-level productivity by equipping female operators with the skills needed to effectively perform promoted as line leaders. 

In 2020-21, 80% of GEAR participating factories reported higher productivity of the lines supervised by the women trained by GEAR.

According to an ILO study released in 2021, the Covid-19 pandemic did not only exacerbate existing gender inequalities - such as the double burden for women of working almost the same hours as men while spending more than twice as much time on housework - but also created new ones, which included a gender gap in the unemployment rate.

Dan Rees, Director of Better Work Global, said robust evidence shows that empowering women workers drives and sustains compliance, increases productivity and profitability, and improves dialogue, health, and education outcomes for workers and their families. 

He underlined: “When women workers have a voice in dialogue at the workplace, compliance is higher and working conditions are better. When harassment and abusive working conditions are curbed, workers report higher well-being and factories’ profitability is higher.”

He noted that improving gender equality in the workplace is even more important than ever when building forward better from the pandemic. This is in line with the ILO’s Global Call to Action for a human-centered recovery from the Covid-19 crisis.

Vietnam’s garment and footwear industries are at the forefront of the country’s growth and development. They employ about five million people, among those 70% are women.

The Covid-19 pandemic caused major disruptions in garment and footwear industries before they started to gear up in 2022, reaching US$7.21 billion and $4.79 billion in export values respectively in the first quarter.

Better Work Vietnam is a unique partnership between the ILO and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, (DFAT), with the ultimate goal to improve working conditions and boost the competitiveness of Vietnam’s key export industries.

It has currently supported more than 400 participating garment and footwear factories, which employ 700,000 workers across the country to improve working conditions and boost competitiveness through its assessment, advisory and training services.

Australian Ambassador Robyn Mudie said: “The Australian Government is proud to support Better Work through our long-standing partnership with ILOWe recognize that the promotion of workplace gender equality, while a huge challenge globally, and benefits everyone.”

She added the Labor Code provisions that Vietnam now has for employer-provided childcare, employer obligations relating to sexual harassment, and equal pay for equal work of equal value are key strategies for building back a better and more resilient garment and footwear sector.