Garment manufacturers in Asia, the industry’s largest global hub for production, have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many have been forced to shut down operations either temporarily or permanently, and this has left millions of garment workers, the majority of whom are women, unemployed, furloughed or facing reduced hours and income. Although longstanding to the sector, the pandemic gave acute exposure to the fragility and structural inequities of the garment supply chain, something that has led those in the industry to once again question its future viability. Already, debates are emerging about how production dynamics and practices will have to transform to survive in the post-pandemic era.
To explore the nature of these changes and examine the implications for production systems and practices in Asia, the ILO conducted a qualitative study in July 2020 with a group of 16 industry experts. The results provide an early and tentative picture of industry sentiment on key questions related to the future of Asian garment production, including the role of technology, buyer-supplier relationships, and the impact on workers.