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Can National Competitiveness Strategies Include Decent Work?

June 18, 2012

A new study co-authored by the Maquila Solidarity Network (MSN - Canada), the Honduran Independent Monitoring Team (EMIH), and Professionals for Corporate Social Auditing (PASE - Nicaragua) challenges the conventional wisdom that competing on the basis of cheap labour is the only option for poor garment producing countries.

Can national competitiveness strategies include Decent Work? examines and compares the garment export industries in Nicaragua and Honduras, assessing whether it is possible to adopt national competitiveness strategies that seek a balance between the needs and demands of foreign investors and brand buyers and the rights, needs and aspirations of garment workers.

Beginning with an overview of the factors behind the decisions of international brands and manufacturers to source from and/or invest in particular countries and regions, the study then provides a bottom-up view of the critical workplace problems identified by maquila garment workers, representatives of trade unions, women's and other civil society organizations, and labour rights experts in Nicaragua and Honduras. It gives particular emphasis to the issues, concerns and priorities of women workers. Throughout the study, we assess whether and to what degree social dialogue is contributing to the development of competitiveness strategies that include decent work.

A summary of the report and a set of recommendations for international brands, retailers and manufacturers sourcing or investing in Central America are included separately.