Advancing the Garment Industry by Improving Working Conditions and Workers’ Quality of Life


Advancing the Garment Industry by Improving Working Conditions and Workers’ Quality of Life


Depok – Tuesday (25/08/2020) Department of Management and International Office, Faculty of Economics and Business, Universitas Indonesia, in collaboration with Tufts University (USA), International Development Research Center (IDRC-CRDI), International Labor Organization and Real Time Analytic Vietnam, held a research dissemination entitled, “Working Conditions and Quality of Life for Indonesian and Vietnamese Garment Workers: Realities and Expectations”.

The speakers for this event were ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Prof. Drusilla Brown, Labor Lab Tufts University, USA; Sari Wahyuni ‚Äč‚ÄčS.I.P., M.Sc., Ph.D, Lecturer at FEB UI and President of ISMS; Ir. Aryana Satrya, M.M, Ph.D, Lecturer at FEB UI; and Le Dang Trung, Ph.D, RT Analytics Vietnam as the Speakers. The keynote speakers were ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Dra. Haiyani Rumondang, M.A, Director General of Industrial Relations, Indonesian Ministry of Manpower; and Dr. Anindya Chatterjee, Regional Director for Asia, IDRC Canada. The moderators were ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Muthia Pramesti M.M, Head of the International Office, FEB UI and Permata Wulandari, Ph.D, Lecturer at FEB UI.

This study is ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†a close collaboration of an international research team from the Faculty of Economics and Business, Universitas Indonesia (FEB UI), Tufts University, and Real Time Analytics Vietnam, on “Empowering Workers through a Humane Workplace.” The ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†project is funded by the International Development Research Center (IDRC) Canada. The study was carried out over a three-year period (2017-2020), centered in Indonesia and Vietnam, 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. The ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†study also aims to identify the most important aspects for the improvement of the lives of garment factory workers, particularly in the ASEAN region and generated ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†proposals for advancing the garment industry.

With the end of this series of studies, FEB UI held a dissemination ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†with the theme “Working Conditions and Quality of Life for Indonesian and Vietnamese Garment Workers: Reality and Expectations”, which presented the results of the study in the form of discussions with stakeholders in the garment industry, including the government and related institutions in the garment industry, garment workers, and the wider community to find solutions for the garment industry to improve working conditions and garment workers‚Äô quality of life and maximize the potential of the garment industry.

This study used¬†¬†¬†¬† ¬†a multidisciplinary approach through various perspectives, including social psychology, economics and management. The results of this research show working conditions, workers’ health, gender differences, and 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, including that the actual conditions in the workplace were that the majority of workers were women, worked      as tailors, and were workers with 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 safety and health principles and tools, a wage system that is in accordance with regulations, setting optimal workloads and schedules, supporting financial and non-financial reward systems, and an increasing the role of trade unions.

Based on the results of research involving several long-term research variables in Indonesia, in general the results of the study show good psychological aspects, while negative working conditions such as verbal abuse, discrimination and low to moderate levels of hunger and thirst, as well as good health conditions. Furthermore, the study shows a high level of perception of garment workers on empowerment and training. Outcomes from workers’ perceptions of working conditions which are divided into short, medium- and long-term results show that 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 moderate levels, while the effort to find another job and change direction to another industry was recorded at a low-level.

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 at home working at the company. Differences are shown, for example, for Indonesian workers, the amount of bonuses received and assets ownership can encourage them to find other jobs, which are not found in Vietnamese garment workers. Vietnamese workers are known to consider overtime pay to be an important factor in determining this condition.

Capacity building programs such as Better Work, initiated by a collaboration between the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and followed by several garment factories, are also examined in this study to analyze their 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 lower levels of dehumanization and improved work-life balance.

In 2020, the Ministry of Industry explained that the Textile and Textile Product (TPT) industry is among the 15 manufacturing industry sectors that are prioritized to improve their export performance. Thus, the resources and potential related to this industry need to be increased to advance the TPT industry at the national and global levels. One of the efforts that can be done, is through close cooperation in improving the working conditions and garment workers’ quality of life to improve their 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, and utilizing social dialogue between workers, employers and stakeholders.

In practice, increasing workers‚Äô life satisfaction and reducing workers’ desire to leave their job can be promoted by suppressing the level of emotional exhaustion and increasing other aspects such as job satisfaction, social dialogue, empowerment, psychological support and working conditions. It is also important to pay attention to joint and coordinated efforts to protect employers and workers due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic that has become a health crisis and triggered an unprecedented economic crisis. Ir. Aryana Satrya, M.M., Ph.D., a senior lecturer at FEB UI, emphasized that social dialogue has an important role, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, to coordinate stakeholders, specifically workers and employers in producing the most appropriate policies for all parties. (hjtp)