COVID-19 and the garment and textile sector in Ethiopia: Workers’ perspective

These negative economic and public health shocks of COVID-19 are reverberating in Ethiopia, and in particular in the country’s garment and textile sector.
A global collapse in demand for garments has been witnessed since the first quarter of 2020, following measures by governments to slow the spread of the pandemic. Restrictions on movement and economic activity has produced widespread retail closures and effects throughout supply chains, including prompting factory production suspensions and workforce layoffs. Cancellation of orders has left some garment manufacturers unable to pay workers as required.
A survey among Ethiopian manufacturers in April revealed the average capacity utilization rate had decreased by 30 per cent in Q1 2020 relative to the same period in 2019. Fully half of management respondents in the same survey said they expected employee layoffs in the second quarter of the year. Ethiopia has yet to reach its expected peak of COVID-19 infections, but the pandemic has accelerated in the country. As of the first week in June, the World Health Organization stated that there have been over 2,000 confirmed cases of the virus in the country. Factories are on high alert with regard to efforts to prevent, contain, and address fallout from the spread of the disease. As yet, no clusters of cases have been reported in major industrial zones in the country.
The International Labour Organization and its coordinated Programme in the Ethiopia apparel and textile sector, SIRAYE, is playing an active role in ensuring the safety of individuals and the sustainability of businesses. As such, the programme, conducted interview with workers in May 2020 to share and collect key information on COVID-19 and its related effects. Semi-structured interviews were facilitated and covered information on demographics, COVID-19 knowledge and prevention measures, and effects on economic activity and livelihoods. This report highlights the key findings.