Uniqlo’s parent company Fast Retailing is spending $1.8m to research ways to improve working conditions in production bases across Asia.
Fast Retailing has partnered with the International Labour Organization (ILO) on the project, which will investigate labour markets and social security systems in Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Myanmar and Vietnam.
The company said garment workers were “at high risk of job displacement due to the rapidly-shifting employment needs of the region’s evolving economies” but existing social protection schemes and policies “often do not fully protect workers from risks of unemployment”.
Fast Retailing said the cash would be provided between 2019-2021 and it was the largest privately-funded project in the history of ILO-led social security initiatives.
The firm said workers in Indonesia “are among those most at risk” and the project would begin there, with the ILO working with government agencies, workers’ associations and employer organisations to ensure a minimum income, to prevent unemployed workers falling into poverty, to facilitate return to work as soon as possible, and to upgrade skills.
The ILO said women were most at risk of falling into poverty because they were over-represented in garment factories.
Michiko Miyamoto, ILO country director for Indonesia, said: “This project will combine social protection with industry-led training and jobs services to mitigate the impact of economic restructuring and labour reforms on workers.
“One of the positive outcomes of this project is that it will help women shift sectors, acquire new skills or develop their own business, particularly considering studies show women spend more on their family's welfare and education for children.”
Tadashi Yanai, chairman, president and CEO of Fast Retailing, said: “Asia is the engine for global business growth. To realise sustainable growth in Asia, it is important to ensure decent working environments and to uphold the rights of workers around the region.
“We have a large and growing network of retail stores in Asia, and workers here make a significant contribution to our business through a network of independent manufacturing partners. To date, we have been working to protect people in our supply chain through a combination of our own initiatives and by partnering with industry and NGO stakeholders.
“Through the ILO partnership, we hope to expand our impact and find solutions to issues faced by all workers in Asia – not just those in our supply chain – through systemic social protection measures and improved working environments across the region.”
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