Gender expert Jo Morris zeroes in on the work of FWF on reducing gender-based violence within the framework of the Strategic Partnership
The pathways to improvement in the global garment industry are influenced by complex social and economic dynamics. The new FWF Strategic Partnership is designed to address these issues at the different levels.
Ending violence against women is one of the three pillars of the Partnership: Reducing Gender Based Violence, the Living Wage and Social Dialogue are inter-linked issues that have the capacity to promote greater well-being and fairness in the global garment supply chain.
Gender equality is most explicitly addressed in the thematic area related to the reduction of gender- based violence. However, gender-based violence is an extreme manifestation of practices that result from – and lead to – widespread gender-based discrimination in wages, contracts and conditions of work. FWF’s research shows correlations between job categories dominated by women and lower wages. Discrimination also manifests in insecure and precarious contracts, excessive hours and lack of childcare or maternity protection.
Gender-based violence and harassment in the workplace reinforces gender discrimination and low pay.
Wage improvements in the apparel industry are only sustainable if decent conditions and wage discrimination are addressed at the same time. Social dialogue – a term that incudes collective bargaining but may be a less formal relationship between management and worker representatives – can only be successful when women play an active role in the bargaining process and ‘women’s issues’ are included in the agenda for dialogue at all levels.
As in many sectors, women are often not well-represented as employer or worker representatives, making it less likely that issues of concern are included on the social dialogue agenda in garment-producing countries. For example, sexual harassment and women’s job segregation into lower paid grades are two issues that commonly concern women workers but may not be included in collective bargaining or social dialogue in sectors where there is weak trade union organisation.
Similarly, wage improvement efforts need to address the needs – and effects – of migrant workers. For example, in some countries, migrant workers are often part of the informal economy. Unless strategies are found to improve conditions for these migrant workers, or to move them into formal employment, a large pool of lower-cost workers in precarious conditions risks undercutting progress towards living wages in the more formal economy.
Jo Morris is Visiting Professor in Practice, London School of Economics and Political Science, Gender Institute. She is FWF’s gender expert.