Collapsing demand and disrupted supply chains due to the pandemic have led to a 40-percent decline in garments exports from the Philippines, putting the livelihood of 600,000 workers at risk, according to the International Labor Organization (ILO).
A research covering 10 major garment-producing countries in Asia-Pacific — Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Vietnam — illustrated how the new coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis has affected the sector in the region with plummeting retail sales in key export markets affecting workers and enterprises throughout supply chains.
The report said the largest percentage decreases in exports were observed in China, India, the Philippines and Sri Lanka.
The study said 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.
The report said purchases from major markets United States, European Union and Japan of apparel and footwear fell significantly between January and June 2020, when compared to the same period in 2019.
The study noted there had been some protests in the Philippines, Bangladesh, Cambodia and Indonesia and the Philippines due to delayed or inadequate payments to apparel workers—both employed workers and those on furlough or unemployed.
Even before the pandemic, ILO noted the existence of restrictions on freedom of ILO association in most of the countries. For 2020, ILO asked the governments of Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Philippines, Sri Lanka, to comment on observations and/or allegations made by ITUC concerning freedom of association, collective bargaining and industrial relations.
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.
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.