The garment industry is one of the largest industries in the world that produces a variety of products for society and continues to grow with the increasingly diverse consumer demands in global fashion trends. This industry plays a very dominant role in the economies of many countries, including the ASEAN region. In 2019 Vietnam and Indonesia were among the top ten exporters of clothing globally level. Garment exports of the two countries was recorded at a total of 48.8 billion USD in 2019.
This study involved a close collaboration of an international research team from the Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Indonesia (FEB UI), Tufts University Labor Lab and Real Time Analytics Vietnam (RTA) which conducted a study on “Empowering Workers through a Humane Workplace” which is a project funded by International Development Research Center (IDRC) Canada. The study, conducted over a three-year period (2017-2020) centered in Indonesia and Vietnam, was designed to measure the long-term impact of employment in the garment industry on worker empowerment, human development, and work outcomes. This study involved more than 7000 garment workers in Indonesia and Vietnam. This study also aims to identify the factors in work that are most important for the improvement of the lives of garment factory workers, especially in the ASEAN region, and produce recommendations for advancing the garment industry.
Marking the end of the study, FEB UI held a dissemination activity with the theme “Working Conditions and Quality of Life of Indonesian and Vietnamese Garment Workers: Reality and Hope” which presented the results of the study in the form of discussions with stakeholders in the garment industry, including the government and the institutions involved in the garment industry, garment workers and the wider community to find solutions for the garment industry in order to improve working conditions and quality of life of garment workers and maximize the potential of the garment industry.
This study used a multidisciplinary approach involving various perspectives including social psychology, economics, and management. The results of this research exhibited working conditions, workers’ health, gender differences, the importance of psychological aspects such as a growth mindset, empowerment, training, work-life balance, job and life satisfaction, and differences between garment workers in Better Work Indonesia (BWI) and non BWI factories in Indonesia and Vietnam. The overall study in Indonesia produced important findings in the actual conditions in the workplace, that the majority of workers were women, had a position as sewers, and employed in permanent status. In general, workers reported being in good health, had fairly solid working hours, received compensation wages including production incentives. The life of workers can be illustrated by the financial condition and assets that can be improved in general. This presents challenges in workplace conditions to improve skills and knowledge, application of principles and means of occupational safety and health and a wage system that is in accordance with regulations, setting up optimal workloads and schedules, supporting financial and non-financial reward systems, and increasing the role of labor unions.
Based on the results of research involving several long-term research variables in Indonesia, in general the results of the study showed good psychological aspects, negative working conditions such as verbal abuse, discrimination, hunger and thirst in low to moderate level, as well as good health conditions. Furthermore, the perception of garment workers towards empowerment and training showed in a high level. Outcomes from workers’ perceptions of working conditions which are divided into short, medium, and long-term results showed that workers’ perceptions of work-life balance, social dialogue, promotion, job security, and job and life satisfaction are moderate. Likewise, workers’ perceptions of negative outcomes such as emotional exhaustion, the desire to open their own business and the desire to leave work showed a moderate level, while the intention to find another job and move to another industry were recorded as low.
Furthermore, the results of the study found that there was no significant difference in the attitudes of workers in Indonesia and Vietnam. Workers generally have a confident attitude, do not give up easily, feel that they have had opportunities to develop knowledge and skills, and have a reasonable workload. Furthermore, workers perceive that adequate wages and work incentives will make them feel more comfortable working at the factory. Differences are found, for example, for Indonesian workers, the amount of bonuses received and assets workers had can encourage them to find other jobs, which are not found in Vietnamese garment workers. Vietnamese workers are found to consider overtime pay to be an important factor in determining this.
Capacity building programs such as Better Work, which was initiated by a collaboration between the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and involved participations of many garment factories were also examined in this study to identify its impact on changes in working conditions and quality of life of garment workers. Factory workers in the Better Work (BW) program demonstrated a reduction in verbal harassment, job stress, hunger at work, discrimination in promotion, dehumanization, and uncomfortable factory temperatures. It can be concluded that in general, workers in BW factories are in good physical and mental condition, experience reduced dehumanization and improved work-life balance.
The Indonesian Ministry of Industry in 2020 explained that the Textile and Textile Product (TPT) industry is one of the 15 manufacturing industry sectors which export performance is prioritized to be developed, so the resources and potential of this industry need to be improved to advance this industry to be superior at the national and global levels. One of the efforts that can be done is through close cooperation in improving working conditions and the quality of life for garment workers to provide workers’ welfare. Several things that can be underlined are the importance of improving psychological aspects such as through empowerment in the workplace, implementing supportive human resource practices, utilizing social dialogue between workers, employers, and stakeholders. In practice, to increase workers’ life satisfaction and reduce their desire to leave the job can be facilitated by reducing the level of emotional exhaustion and increasing several aspects such as job satisfaction, social dialogue, empowerment, psychological support, and working conditions. It must also pay attention to joint and coordinated efforts to protect employers and workers due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic which has become a health crisis and has triggered an unprecedented economic crisis.
Research Team Universitas Indonesia : Aryana Satrya, Sari Wahyuni, Permata Wulandari, Muthia Pramesti, Fahrina Yuliani, Uliyatun Nikmah