The Covid-19 crisis has hit the garment sector in the Asia-Pacific region hard, with plummeting retail sales in key export markets affecting workers and enterprises throughout supply chains, according to a research of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
The research titled "The supply chain ripple effect: How Covid-19 is affecting garment workers and factories in Asia and the Pacific"was published on Wednesday.
It assesses the impacts of Covid-19 on supply chains, factories and workers in the major garment-producing countries of the region.
The countries considered in the research are Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.
The research highlights that imports from garment-exporting countries in Asia dropped by up to 70% in the first half of 2020, due to collapsing consumer demand, government lockdown measures, and disruptions to imports of raw material necessary for garment production.
As of September this year, almost half of all jobs in garment supply chains were dependent on demand for garments from consumers living in countries with the most stringent lockdown measures in place, where retail sales have plummeted, the research cited.
The Asia-Pacific region employed an estimated 65 million garment sector workers in 2019, accounting for 75% of all garment workers worldwide.
"This research highlights the massive impact Covid-19 has had on the garment industry at every level.
"It is vital that governments, workers, employers and other industry stakeholders, work together to navigate these unprecedented conditions and help forge a more human-centred future for the industry," said Chihoko Asada Miyakawa, ILO regional director for Asia and the Pacific.
Sample data from May 2020 shows that only 3.9% of Bangladeshi suppliers have retained their entire workforce and 43% of readymade garmentfactories in Bangladesh are operating with less than 50% oftheir pre-pandemic workforce.
"The sudden drop in consumption and consequent fall inbuyer orders forced many suppliers in the region to closetheir factories, either temporarily or indefinitely," reads the report.
Worker layoffs and dismissals have increased sharply, while factories that have reopened are often operating at reduced workforce, said the ILO.
"Thankfully, many RMG exporters have resumed operations over the past few months. At the same time, these resilient Bangladeshi enterprises and workforces are having to wrestle with the ongoing pandemic and ensuring safe conditions for all," said Tuomo Poutiainen, Country Director, ILO Bangladesh.
To this end, the ILO has supported the development of a national Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) guideline on Covid-19 to mitigate infections in workplaces.
In addition, several initiatives to protect income, health and employment of RMG workers and support for employers during the pandemic have also been developed, Poutiainen added.