The Better Work Bangladesh (BWB) Programme, a collaboration between the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), aims to improve the lives of workers, their families, and their communities while also increasing the competitiveness of Bangladesh’s ready-made garment industry.

Better Work Bangladesh was established in 2014 with a single goal in mind to assist in the creation of a competitive garment industry that provides decent employment for workers, good business for factories and brands, and economic development for Bangladesh. It aims to help Bangladesh build a competitive garment industry that provides decent employment for workers, including women, good business for factories and brands, and economic growth.

Better Work Bangladesh aims to increase capacity at the factory and national systemic levels so that stakeholders can recognise, avoid, and solve related issues in the most efficient and successful way possible (tripartite, bipartite, individually). Better Work Bangladesh has been collaborating with staff, employers, and the government to create lasting change in the industry through our core services – Advisory, Assessments, and Training – as a unique collaboration between the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC).

In addition to advising garment factories, Better Work Bangladesh works with the Bangladeshi government to reform labour regulations, as well as with brands to ensure that progress is maintained.

Factory compliance with ILO core labour standards and national legislation covering wages, contracts, workplace safety and health, and working time has gradually improved as a result of their involvement with Better Work Bangladesh.

Better Work Bangladesh collaborated with the government in the early stages of the programme to better align certain aspects of the labour code with international labour standards. To that end, labour law changes were introduced, as well as revisions to union membership requirements, resulting in the registration of around 150 new factory-level unions. Better Work Bangladesh focuses on improving working conditions and opportunities for women, advancing their competitiveness and career advancement, as well as their health and safety, in addition to our tried-and-true strategies for addressing the root causes of non-compliance in factories.

The Gender Equality and Returns (GEAR) initiative, for example, trained 144 female employees in the pilot process in collaboration with the IFC; 58 of them are now in supervisory positions with a 39 percent pay rise. GEAR is being expanded to include 700 female operators and managers in 70 factories. In 80 garment factories, Better Work Bangladesh has worked with UNICEF to promote breastfeeding and maternal rights for working mothers.
Better Work Bangladesh currently operates in the greater Dhaka area and Chattagram, covering factories in major garment industry belts. Plans are in the works to expand operations even more, with the aim of having 400 factories participating in the programme by 2021.

Bangladesh’s garment industry employs four million people, 60 percent of whom are women, in over 4,500 factories, making it the country’s largest export earner. Women make up 56 percent of jobs in Better Job Bangladesh partner factories. Bangladesh is currently the world’s second-largest exporter of ready-made garments. Bangladesh’s garment exports were reported to be worth US$34.13 billion in 2019.

By incorporating gender equality and inclusion concepts into all facets of its job, Better Work Bangladesh has renewed its strategic emphasis on gender equality and women’s economic empowerment. Gender problems have always been a part of Better Work Bangladesh, and the latest Gender Strategy 2020-2022 is motivated by the Better Work Global Gender Strategy (2018-2022), as well as the implementation of the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Violence and Harassment Convention, 2019. (No. 190).
Better Work Bangladesh’s Gender Strategy is the product of an ongoing collaboration with key players leading to the enhancement of working conditions and the competitiveness of the ready-made garment (RMG) industry, as well as pooling the useful knowledge of other Better Work Country Programs.

The RMG market, as a major employer of women, can be attributed to the rise in women’s economic participation in Bangladesh over the last fifteen years. Despite these advancements, business leaders should do more to enhance women’s working conditions and prospects for empowerment. Although women still account for more than half of all jobs in the industry, they remain overrepresented in lower-paid positions, with men holding the majority of supervisory positions.

Better Work Bangladesh is well positioned within the industry to put a greater emphasis on gender equality in its factory work, while also encouraging tripartite constituents to do so. This plan examines Bangladesh’s current gender equality situation and outlines Better Work Bangladesh’s approach, as well as a potential roadmap for fostering gender equality in the Bangladeshi garment industry.

Better Work Bangladesh has published its first Industry and Enforcement Review, which covers 200 factory evaluations performed between June 2015 and December 2018, and provides an overview of noncompliance findings in factories participating in the programme. Non-compliance is measured in eight labour standard clusters: four based on ILO core labour laws, such as child labour, sexism, forced labour, and freedom of association and collective bargaining; and four based on Bangladeshi labour law, such as wages, contracts and human resources, workplace safety and health, and working time.

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