Brasília - Technological advances, climate and demographic changes, globalization and geopolitics have profound and rapid impacts on the productivity and work of global supply chains in the textile and clothing industry. These vectors create an uncertain and unpredictable future for employers, workers and governments. To this scenario are added the impacts caused by the crisis triggered by the pandemic of COVID-19.
In this context, skills development, training and professional (re)qualification are key elements for the future of work, productivity and sustainability in the sector, in addition to playing a role in advancing gender equity, diversity and inclusion of women and workers in post-pandemic reconstruction.
These were the main conclusions of experts from governments, unions, ILO and industry gathered at the “South-South cooperation webinar on future skills needs in the garment and textile sectors in Brazil, Ethiopia, Jordan and Peru”, held, virtually this Thursday (4 March), by the International Labour Organization and the Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC).
The Webinar brought together representatives of governments, workers 'and employers' organizations.
The online event presented the prospective professional training studies in the textile and clothing sectors developed in Brazil, Ethiopia, Jordan and Peru, and made it possible to make a comparative analysis of the different stages of the work and the recommendations adopted.
The objective is to prepare governments, workers 'and employers' organizations to face technological, environmental, commercial and demographic changes that will affect the entire textile production chain, from cotton to the production and marketing of clothing in the coming years.
The seminar was also held with the support of the Cotton with Decent Work and Future of Work projects in the Textile and Clothing Sectors, and in partnership with governments, workers 'and employers' organizations in the four countries, and the Brazilian Cotton Institute (IBA).
Global supply chains and the pandemic
Globally, the textile and clothing sectors employ millions of workers, mainly women. Industries are key players in the economic and social development of many developing countries and provide entry points to global supply chains, such as the cotton value chain (about 50% of textiles are made from cotton) and export markets. However, the sector has a history of unsafe and precarious working conditions and faces the environmental challenge in terms of waste and water use, focusing on the sustainability of consumption and production models.
Strongly globalized, in 2020, the textile and clothing sector suffered from the negative impacts of the crisis caused by the pandemic.
"The collapse of demand, the closing of stores and the cancellation of orders have reached the value chains, forced the closure of thousands of factories and left unskilled workers", said Vinícius Pinheiro, ILO regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean, in the opening session.
"Forecasting and skill development can play a key role in planning the long-term future of industries," he added.
A recent global survey revealed that 57% of companies in the textile and apparel sector face difficulties in finding the skills they need to innovate, said the director of the ILO's Department of Sectoral Policies, Allete Van Leurs.
“COVID-19 can offer a unique opportunity to promote decent work for more women and men. Industries may also have the rare opportunity to embrace environmental sustainability and circularity, in order to ensure that they become more inclusive, productive and sustainable”, she said.
For the Director of ABC, Ambassador Ruy Pereira, the prospective studies made it possible to foresee new work needs in the textile sector, and to verify similarities and diversities.
"Thus, it is possible to provide more and better qualification and specialization to workers, generating added value to what is produced within each country, always maintaining the perspective of promoting decent work and placing it as a development and wealth generation plant for our countries", said the Ambassador.
More and better opportunities
The first session of the seminar addressed the future of work and professional training. The ILO Team Leader - Skills Strategies for Future Labour Markets, Skills and Employability Branch, ILO Employment Policy Department, Olga Strieska-Ilina, recalled that the pandemic caused the loss of 255 million full-time jobs last year and that skills development plays a key role in economic reconstruction.
According to her, it will be necessary to develop a set of four types of skills: basic, such as literacy and numeracy: work essentials, which help people move from one occupation to another and which operate a job security mechanism; specialized techniques; and digital.
The methodology and process for constructing the recommendations in the four countries were the subject of the second panel, which brought together: the ILO textile sector specialist, Beatriz Cunha; the Industrial Development Specialist at the National Service for Industrial Learning (Senai), Marcello Pio; the Undersecretary of Human Capital of the Secretariat for Public Employment Policies, of the Ministry of Economy of Brazil, Denis Freitas; the Director of the Technical Commission for the Development of Professional Qualification in Jordan, Dr. Qais Al Safafeh; the consultant responsible for Ethiopia's national report, Tsegay Gebrekidan Tekleselassie; and the Director-General of Standardization, Training for Employment and Certification of Labor Competence, of the Ministry of Labor and Promotion of Employment of Peru, Emelyn Aracel.
The debate focused on the processes and common points of the different methodologies used in the countries: STED (Skills for Trade and Economic Diversification), that is a sector-based approach to identify and anticipate the strategic skills needs of internationally tradable sectors; or Senai Prospective Model applied to the Brazilian textile sector, which sought to identify scenarios and trends of technological and organizational changes for the coming years, their impacts on current professional profiles and what new types of professionals will be needed for Brazilian textile companies.
In the cases of Brazil and Peru, these recommendations were developed in a tripartite manner and based on building consensus, through extensive consultation with the bases of workers and employers in the textile sector, vocational training institutions and institutes that research the development of the textile sector.
The third and final session presented the main recommendations and how they can be implemented in each country. The debate brought together the president of the Brazilian Association of the Textile and Clothing Industry (ABIT), Fernando Pimentel, the secretary of International Relations of the Central Única dos Trabalhadores (CUT) and member of the ILO Board of Directors, Antônio Lisboa, the first Vice-President of the Federation of Employers of Ethiopia, Dawit Monges, the clothing sector representative of the Jordanian Chamber of Industry (JCI), Ehab Al Qadiri, the representative of the National Federation of Textile Workers of Peru (FNTTP), Lorena Chavera, and director of the Small and Medium Enterprises Association of Peru and representative of the National Confederation of Private Business Institutions of Peru (CONFIEP), Lucia Choquehuanca.
Experts agreed that social dialogue and a people-centered approach will be crucial for the implementation of recommendations in countries, which, even working in a global industry such as textiles, present a variety of challenges and advances.
In closing, the director of the ILO Office in Brazil, Martin Hahn, said that the results of the seminar could contribute to the acquisition of skills, abilities and qualifications in the four countries, promoting decent work in the cotton value chain and in line with the ILO Centennial Declaration for the Future of Labour.
"Today's seminar is another step in a collaborative process that continues with the dialogue with tripartite constituents in the countries, for the implementation of recommendations for the textile and clothing sector. I am also very pleased to share the information that there are others countries in Asia interested in knowing this initiative and developing similar work ", said the director.
ABC's South-South Trilateral Cooperation Coordinator, Cecilia Malaguti, said that the partnership between Brazil and the ILO foresaw, "in an innovative way, a trilateral cooperation mechanism to benefit countries in Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa, and is founded on the implementation of the Decent Work Agenda".
The topic of today's debate will be consolidated into a global publication, to be launched by the ILO sector policy department this year.