COVID-19 risks income for millions of women working in garment factories


The outbreak of COVID-19 has disrupted supply chains throughout the whole world with garment factories facing closure and risking the livelihoods of 40 million workers [1], 80% of whom are women [2].

Thousands of factories across Bangladesh, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam have already closed due to a shortage of materials from China and cancelled orders from European and American clothing brands. One million garment workers have been let go in Bangladesh, the world’s second-largest clothing manufacturer, after China [3]. Women employed in the garment making industry are some of the most vulnerable workers in the global economy, paid barely enough to make ends meet. The economic impact of Coronavirus could see them and their families face further poverty.

If these women do keep their jobs the poor working conditions of crowded factory floors with limited access to sanitation increases their risk of contracting the infectious disease. Without sick leave or employment benefits these women’s livelihoods and health are in jeopardy.

Low-income countries like Bangladesh and Cambodia, whose economies rely largely on garment manufacturing, also have weak healthcare systems meaning the COVID-19 outbreak could be catastrophic.

ActionAid is committed to protecting the rights of the world’s most vulnerable workers. We are calling on the Australian government to support low-income countries to respond to the COVID-19 health and economic crisis by:

  • Supporting the cancellation of all external debt payments due to be made in 2020.
  • Providing additional financial aid and technical assistance to support low-income countries to respond to the crisis.
  • Supporting low-income countries to build their resilience to future crises by developing international trade agreements that strengthen economies, support public services and put women’s rights and workers’ rights ahead of corporate rights.

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