How Covid-19 is affecting global clothing industry

Smiling female worker in a clothing factory

hoto credit – Mlondolozi Mbolo /Decent Work Regulation

The Covid-19 pandemic is intensifying challenges to worker protection in the garment sector and the effects on workers have become a global concern.

Professor Deirdre McCann and Karina Patricio Ferreira Lima from Durham Law School and Professor Kelly Pike from York University, Canada consider the challenges and possible ways forward.

Concerns have evolved into fears

Longstanding challenges have intensified during the pandemic. Enduring concerns about health and safety in clothing factories, for example, have evolved into fears about whether a safe return to these workplaces can be guaranteed.

Workers’ struggles to care for their families are central to a workforce that is 80% female. These work and family anxieties have hardened into fears about how children will be fed and clothed, as furloughed workers lose wages and, in some cases, employee benefits such as childcare, meals and healthcare.

Global cooperation to ensure worker protection

Global cooperation is more important than ever to protect garment workers, and large clothing brands have a vital role to play in this area. Sustainable social protection systems are also crucial, as is effective state enforcement of labour standards.

Most importantly, the voice of the workers must be at the heart of all policy changes. The policy makers must ensure that all changes are based on the experience and needs of the garment workers.

We consider all these challenges – and provide some policy responses – in this article for LSE Social Policy.

/Durham University Public Release. The material in this public release comes from the originating organization and may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. View in full here.