Asia-Pacific garment industry

suffers as COVID-19 impact ripples through supply chain

Collapsing consumer demand, government lockdown measures and disruptions to raw material imports have taken their toll on the Asia Pacific garment industry, says a new ILO report.




Thesynergyonline Economics Bureau


BANGKOK : 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 new research from the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Garment sector in Asia and the Pacific Garment sector

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Dress

Dress, also called apparel or attire, clothing and accessories for the human body. The variety of dress is immense. The style that a particular individual selects is often linked to that person's sex, age, socioeconomic status, culture, geographic area, and historical era

Modern knowledge of ancient Egyptian dress derives from the ample evidence to be seen in the wealth of wall and sarcophagus paintings, in sculpture, and in ceramics; few actual garments have survived. Such illustrative material is depicted clearly and colourfully, but care must be taken in interpreting the designs too literally, partly because the art is frequently stylized but also because the artists were bound by tradition and their representation of dress often lagged far behind the actual changes of fashion.

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The chief textile to have been preserved is linen, which has been found in graves from the Neolithic Period. The growing of flax, from which linen is made, dates from very early times; the Egyptians believed that the gods were clothed in linen before they came to earth. Wool was more rarely employed, and sericulture, the raising of silkworms, had not yet extended as far west as Egypt.

During the 3,000 years of the ancient Egyptian culture, costume changed comparatively little and very slowly. It generally emphasized a draped style of dress, the garments consisting of pieces of material held in place around the body by knots tied in the fabric and by belts, sashes, and collars. Little sewing was needed, being confined generally to side seams and, in later years, to armholes. This draped type of dress conformed to that of other civilizations in the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern region, such as Greece, Rome, and Mesopotamia, but differed from the styles of Persia, northern India, and China, where people wore more fitted, sewn garments based upon coats, tunics, and trousers. Over the years the style of these garments slowly evolved and became more complex; a greater number were worn either in combination with or on top of one another. During the Old Kingdom (its capital at Memphis), which lasted until about 2130 BCE, dress was simple. Men wore a short skirt tied at the waist or held there by a belt. As time passed, the skirt became pleated or gathered. Important people wore in addition a decorative coloured pendant hanging in front from the waist belt and a shoulder cape or corselet partly covering their bare torso. A sheathlike gown was typical of feminine attire

"Clothe yourself with harmonious style and a consistent message."
— Cindy Ann Peterson

The supply chain ripple effect: How COVID-19 is affecting garment workers and factories in Asia and the Pacific , assesses the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on supply chains, factories and workers in 10 major garment-producing countries in the region: Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Viet Nam.

The research highlights that major buying countries' imports from garment-exporting countries in Asia dropped by up to 70 per cent in the first half of 2020, due to collapsing consumer demand, government lockdown measures, and disruptions to raw material imports necessary for garment production.

As of September 2020, 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 Asia-Pacific region employed an estimated 65 million garment sector workers in 2019, accounting for 75 per cent of all garment workers worldwide.

Garment sector in Asia and the Pacific

Ms Chihoko Asada Miyakawa, ILO Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific :

"The 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."

"The typical garment worker in the region lost out on at least two to four weeks of work and saw only three in five of her co-workers called back to the factory when it reopened. Declines in earnings and delays in wage payments were also common among garment workers still employed in the second quarter of 2020," said Christian Viegelahn, Labour Economist at the ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.

Christian Viegelahn, Labour Economist, ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific :

Although governments in the region have responded proactively to the crisis, the research reveals the closure of thousands of factories across the region, either temporarily or indefinitely. Worker layoffs and dismissals have increased sharply, while factories that have reopened are often operating at reduced workforce capacity.

"The typical garment worker in the region lost out on at least two to four weeks of work and saw only three in five of her co-workers called back to the factory when it reopened. Declines in earnings and delays in wage payments were also common among garment workers still employed in the second quarter of 2020," said Christian Viegelahn, Labour Economist at the ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.

In addition, the research identifies how women, who make up the majority of the workers, have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, exacerbating existing inequalities in earnings, workload, occupational segregation, and distribution of unpaid care work.

Although the garment sector in Asia is generally marked by low levels of collective bargaining at both sector and factory level, the research notes that social dialogue appears to have helped strengthen crisis responses in countries where dialogue mechanisms are in place. The brief calls for more inclusive and meaningful social dialogue at national and sectoral levels in countries across the region.

Other recommendations highlighted include the need for continued support for enterprises, as well as the extension of social protection for workers, especially women. The recent global Call to Action , an international multi-stakeholder initiative facilitated by ILO, is also noted as a promising example of industry-wide solidarity in addressing the crisis.

"The supply chain ripple effect: How COVID-19 is affecting garment workers and factories in Asia and the Pacific", is based on extensive desk research and analysis of publicly available and enterprise-level data, together with interviews with leading stakeholders from across the sector in Asia. It was led by Cornell University and an ILO team comprising the Regional Economic and Social Analysis Unit (RESA), Better Work and the ILO-Sida Decent Work in Garment Supply Chains Asia project.