The Australian Government works in partnership with countries in the Indo-Pacific region to improve access to better quality jobs so women and girls can gain more from participating in the economy.
Improving women’s working conditions in the garment industry in South and Southeast Asia
Being employed and earning a wage does not automatically lead to women’s economic empowerment. Women who work in factories, such as in the garment industry, often do not earn enough to enjoy a decent standard of living and meet their own and their families’ basic needs. Women often work in dangerous and unsafe conditions. They are often vulnerable to sexual abuse and have little or no access to labour rights.
Through the Gender Equality Fund, the Australian Government is a significant donor to the Better Work program, a joint initiative of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and International Finance Corporation. The program improves women’s working conditions in the garment industry. In partnership with the private sector and trade unions, Better Work improves workplace standards, including those covering wages, work hours, health and safety, leave, and labour relations. The program is active in 1300 factories that together employ more than 1.6 million workers in seven countries, most of whom are women. Australia’s funding for Better Workgoes to projects in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia and Vietnam.
Better Work is showing promising results. In Vietnam, for example, women now have more access to pregnancy-related healthcare and do not work as many hours. Those working in factories participating in the program are earning at least the minimum wage. In Indonesia, where workplace sexual harassment frequently occurs, Better Work is increasing women’s awareness of their rights. Women now more often raise issues with their trade union representative, helping to prevent such harassment.
Australia is working with ILO to address violence against women, which has a negative impact on productivity, and providing female factory staff with healthcare and childcare services. In the coming years, Australian support will help women build the skills they need to contest trade union leadership positions and progress to senior management.