2. The role of governments
Effective implementation of legislation, protection of workers’ rights and greater investment in factory inspection are some of the ways in which workers in global supply chains can be protected from exploitation and the risk of gender-based violence.
Governments have a crucial role in reducing inequalities in the workplace through implementing international Conventions, ensuring compliance with national legislation and raising awareness and support for organizations involved in tackling gender-based violence.
Better enforcement of legislation and standards in the context of global production requires governments, employers and trade unions working together to implement solutions through social dialogue. (Barrientos, Kabeer & Hossain, 2004) Governments also have a duty to raise awareness about gender-based violence and establish enterprise taxation policies and minimum wage policies to address the risk factors identified in Module 2.
Effective economic and social policies are also needed to provide economic opportunities, dignity at work and social protection for workers. In Brazil and Cost Rica, for example, enterprise development and social policy reforms have helped to build competitiveness and promote gender equality. In Costa Rica, where the economy has a strong export sector in electronics and agricultural products, government policies have helped to manage the impact of global competitive risks on workers through the introduction of inclusive universal health and education services, and social protection measures. (UN Women 2015)
An example of State-wide government action is the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act of 2010, which aims to make initiatives for the elimination of slavery and human trafficking visible to consumers. The law covers all retailers and manufacturers that do business in California and have global annual sales of more than $100 million. These companies are required to release information publicly, for example, on their website, concerning their initiatives aimed at preventing human trafficking.
However, recent research (LeBaron and Lister, 2016) argues that a reliance on company audits to monitor the implementation of labour standards, whether carried out by companies or NGOs, has had the effect of reducing the role of states in regulating business enterprises and is re-orientating global corporate governance towards the interests of private business.
Labour inspection has an important role to play in implementing and enforcing the legal provisions that promote gender equality. However, in many developing countries labour inspection is under-resourced and often does not give priority to gender equality issues or gender-based violence in the workplace.
The ILO has produced a guide on how to address gender issues in labour inspection, including the knowledge, attitudes and tools by which inspectors can recognize and address gender-related issues. The guide sets out the need to train and provide guidance to labour inspectors on how to identify gender-related issues in the workplace and promote the implementation of national laws and the fundamental ILO Conventions. Suitably trained women labour inspectors who specialize in sectors that employ large numbers of low-skilled women, such as domestic service, the garment sector and horticulture, is another important way to address these challenges. There are some good practices from countries across the world, including in Costa Rica where special campaigns addressed to women workers and young workers by the labour inspectorate have been implemented to protect the rights of pregnant women and adolescents.
For further information on how labour inspection can address gender equality issues see ILO (2014) Labour inspection, gender equality and non-discrimination in the Arab states: Guide Book. Available at: http://www.ilo.org/beirut/publications/WCMS_249296/lang--en/index.htm