Empowering women could help to build forward better Vietnam’s garment and footwear sectors from the COVID-19 crisis, shows evidence from the ILO’s flagship programme.
Better Work Vietnam joined hands with the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI), with the support of the Australian Government and other donors, to organize the national conference on women’s empowerment during the COVID-19 recovery towards a more resilient garment and footwear sectors.
Better Work Vietnam is a unique partnership between the ILO and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, with the ultimate goal to improve working conditions and boost competitiveness of these key export industries of Vietnam.
According to an ILO study released in 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic did not only exacerbate existing gender inequalities – such as double burden for women of working almost the same hours with men while spending more than twice as much time on housework – but also created new ones, which included a gender gap in unemployment rate.
Better Work Vietnam closely worked with its member factories to reduce risks of gender discrimination and developed guidelines with emphasis on gender dimensions to support factories in handling suspensions, retrenchment and occupational safety and health during the pandemic.
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 leader.
In 2020-21, 80 per cent of GEAR participating factories reported higher productivity of the lines supervised by the women trained by GEAR.
“Robust evidence shows that empowering women workers drives and sustains compliance, increases productivity and profitability, improves dialogue, and improves health and education outcomes for workers and their families,” said Dan Rees, Director of Better Work Global.
Vietnam’s garment and footwear industries are at the forefront of the country’s growth and development. They employ about 5 million people, among those 70 per cent 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.
Image by ILO Asia-Pacific