Improving labour standards in Pakistan’s textile industry

Project description

Title: Improvement of labour and social standards in Pakistan’s textile industry
Commissioned by: Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Pakistan
Lead executing agency: The Labour and Human Resource Department, Government of Punjab
Overall term: 2017 to 2020


The textile and garment sector, with its large clusters in the Punjab province, is Pakistan’s most important branch of the manufacturing industry. Some 15 million people (around 25 per cent of the workforce) are employed in this sector. The working conditions are characterised by poor workplace safety, low wages, as well as a lack of co-determination at company level and a lack of dialogue between management, workers and state institutions.

The provincial labour administration plays a key role in improving working conditions. Its responsibilities include labour inspection, occupational health and safety, medical care and rehabilitation and compensation. Labour inspections are an important regulatory instrument for complying with labour standards and improving working conditions. All legal requirements with respect to workplace safety and workers protection are addressed by labour inspections.

The Labour Inspectorate in the Punjab province, however, is hardly effective, despite employing a large number of inspectors. The reasons are manifold: the close ties between the actors in the political and business sector, weak state structures and an underfunded provincial administration create challenging conditions for inspectors in performing their duties. The interaction among the state institutions and authorities is insufficient for making evidence-based decisions for shaping the labour inspectorate. The private sector does not perceive incentives for compliance with labour standards and lacks access to advisory services for working on compliance with labour standards out of its own interests. As a result, the framework conditions for the implementation of labour standards in the province of Punjab are not favourable.


Framework conditions for the implementation of labour standards in the province of Punjab are improved. Measures for capacity development of state institutions that are linked to the labour inspectorate could be developed. The dialogue between governmental and private institutions as well as civil society has improved.


Labour inspections are a key tool for monitoring the industry’s compliance with labour standards. An effective labour inspectorate contributes to decent work in the long term and thus enhances income opportunities and living conditions. Studies have shown that compliance with labour standards brings improvements in the productivity and quality of manufacturing and is therefore closely related to the competitiveness of companies.

The project focuses on improved cooperation in the areas of inspection, prevention, rehabilitation and compensation. Furthermore, an interlocking of inspections and industrial safety management systems is also planned.

The project’s measures are divided into three fields of activity:

1. Capacity development for labour inspections

This field of activity aims to improve the capacities of the Punjab Labour & Human Resource Department, selected subordinate authorities and four selected district labour offices for carrying out labour inspections. The unit will receive various capacity development measures in order to expand the services and advisory measures of the Saeed Ahmed Awan Centre for the Improvement of Working Conditions and Environment. The Punjab Employees Social Security Institution (PESSI) receives capacity development to improve the diagnosis of occupational diseases. Moreover, the project supports the setup of a training programme for safety officers.

2. Increasing the organisational capacity of the Labour and Human Resource Department of Punjab Province

This field of activity aims to improve the organisational capacity of the Labour and Human Resource Department of Punjab province to foster the industry’s compliance with labour standards. The main intention is to strengthen cooperation and coordination between various units within the Department on aspects of occupational safety and health. In particular, units entrusted with the social security of employees; like PESSI, are involved in joint activities, for example collecting data and evaluating occupational accidents in order to increase the efficiency of prevention campaigns.

3. Support for private sector actors

This field of activity aims to help private sector actors succeed in complying with labour standards, while simultaneously boosting productivity. It enables partner companies to use dialogue-based methods in their companies as instruments for change management processes that strive to both boost productivity and improve labour standards. The Dialogue for Compliance promotes problem solving skills, in company communication and cooperation between the factory management and the workers.