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Better Work Program Boosts Efficiency and Sustainability in Bangladesh’s Textile Industry

The Better Work program, a joint initiative between the United Nations ILO and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), aims to improve working conditions, productivity, and profitability in Bangladesh's RMG factories.

An ILO study revealed that factories participating in Better Work saw a 5% increase in production line efficiency. Additionally, these factories promoted more women to supervisory roles and increased female supervisors’ wages by 39%, leading to better quality control through enhanced confidence and capabilities.

At a roundtable organized by Better Work Bangladesh, Samakal, and The Business Standard, Khondaker Golam Moazzem of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) highlighted these findings. He noted that factories in the Better Work program could negotiate higher prices for their products, achieving an average premium of 5% on export prices.

Better Work Bangladesh, which began operations in 2014, has partnered with 472 factories and 50 global brands, benefiting approximately 1.3 million workers, 51% of whom are women. Golam Moazzem reported that affiliated factories increased base pay by 5.4%, adding an average of Tk444 per month to workers’ incomes, with additional monthly savings of Tk552 per worker.

Golam Moazzem emphasized the importance of institutionalizing Responsible Business Conduct across various sectors like leather, plastic, and frozen food to enhance competitiveness. He mentioned that Bangladesh has ratified 36 Conventions and 1 Protocol addressing labor issues, including forced labor, freedom of association, and equal remuneration.

HM Ibrahim, chairman of the Standing Committee on the Ministry of Labour, stressed government measures against factory owners involved in salary disputes and announced plans to extend license validity from five to ten years to facilitate business operations.

The discussion also highlighted the need for sustainable economic practices in the textile industry. Tuomo Poutiainen, ILO’s country director in Bangladesh, and Ashraf Ahmed, president of the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI), underscored the program’s role in improving factory management and maintaining low production costs.

FBCCI Senior Vice President Amin Helaly emphasized the importance of compliance in sustaining the country’s economy and achieving developed country status by 2041. Laetitia Weibel Roberts of Better Work stressed the necessity of mutual trust and collaboration among stakeholders for responsible business conduct.

Matiur Rahman from the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE) expressed concerns about worker unemployment and suggested Better Work could address this issue. Union leaders like Chowdhury Ashiqul Alam and ZM Kamrul Anam highlighted the need to protect workers’ rights and support trade unions to ensure industry and national prosperity.

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