Decent Work and Sustainable Development in the Textile and Garment Industry in Ethiopia

The ILO launched a new project funded by SIDA and H&M that aims at improving the development of a socially sustainable textile and garment industry in Ethiopia.

Press release | 04 February 2016
ADDIS ABABA (ILO News) – The International Labour Organisation (ILO) launched today a new project that aims at improving the development of a socially sustainable textile and garment industry in Ethiopia at the Arvind Lifestyle Apparel Manufacturing PLC located in the Bole Lemi Industrial Zone of Addis Ababa.

“I believe with collaborative effort of all partners we can make Ethiopia an African hub of socially responsible production of garments for both global and domestic markets”, H.E. Mr Abdulfeta Abdulahi, Minister of Labour and Social Affairs stated at the official launch ceremony.

The new project entitled “Improving Industrial Relations for Decent Work and Sustainable Development of Textile and Garment Industry in Ethiopia” is funded by Sweden, through Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), and H&M, and implemented by the ILO in collaboration with Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (MOLSA), Ministry of Industry, Confederation of Ethiopian Trade Unions (CETU), Ethiopian Employers Federation (EEF) and other key stakeholders.
“There is a need for strong industrial relations and social dialogue structures and processes at enterprise, sectoral and national level to resolve important economic and social issues and create an enabling environment for the realization of decent work in the country”, Minister Abdulfeta Abdulahi underlined.

“Well-functioning relations and social dialogue on the labour market is key to improve working conditions and establish fair living wages. Therefore, we are happy to be able to expand our collaboration with ILO and SIDA to Ethiopia through this project”, H&M’s Head of Sustainability Anna Gedda highlighted.

Ethiopia’s garment and textile industry is growing fast and attracting foreign direct investments with the goal of establishing light manufacturing industries which are labour intensive, globally competitive while being environment friendly.

“The textile and garment sector is expected to create employment opportunities for around 350,000 workers and 1 billion dollars export earnings by the end of GTP II period.” George Okutho, Director of the ILO Country Office for Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan, emphasized.

“Steadily improving working conditions can go hand in hand with profitable, well run and productive businesses”, Okutho stressed reminding participants that improving the working conditions, productivity and competitiveness of the cotton and textile industry has been a priority of the ILO and its tripartite partners.

A message echoed by Sweden’s development cooperation which finances a large portion of the project. “We believe that in order to make that a reality for the textile workers it is important to have a functioning dialogue at the industry level, the workers and employers need a structure where problems can be raised, issues of working conditions and environment be handled through negotiations and the quality, both of the work, and of the products enhanced”, Anneka Knutsson, Swedish Deputy Head of Mission and in charge of the Cooperation Section pinpointed.

Sustainable industry with a human face

The project is expected to create regular dialogue forums that will bring together governments and representative organizations of business, workers and suppliers to collectively tackle common and urgent problems in the sector.

“The role of the retailers, such as H&M, in this process is indeed important. It is therefore a big gain that H&M is a part of this process and supporting the efforts to build a sustainable industry with a human face, where the rights of the workers are protected, that can deliver well produced garments to the international market”, Ms Knutsson explained.

“Creating peaceful industrial relation is one of the factors that boost productivity and increase job opportunities”, Mrs Aziza Mohammed, First Vice President of Ethiopian Employers’ Federation (EEF) acknowledged adding that operating in a business friendly environment helps firms to successfully produce first class goods and services, increasing jobs and developing new technologies.

For Berhanu Deriba, Secretary General at CETU, “employment relations in textile and garment industry should be improved to ensure decent work and enduring industrial peace”.

At sectoral level, the project is expected to strengthen the labour administrations’ capacity for labour inspection and dispute settlement; and employers’, workers’ and their organizations’ organizational capacity by developing sound industrial relations and social dialogue practices.

Ethiopia, which aims at becoming a manufacturing hub for Africa, advocated for an inclusive and job rich growth through decent work as the backbone for achieving the national Growth and Transformation Plan vision of becoming a middle income country by 2025.

ILO and H&M signed in September 2014 a unique agreement on sustainable global supply chains in the garment industry. The partnership is intended to establish a positive and innovative model for other brands and create a global alliance to promote the ILO’s Decent Work Agenda in the supply chain of the global garment industry.

For more detailed information, please contact: Kidist Chala, ILO Chief Technical Advisor: Tel. +251911 618076,