Fast Retailing and UN Women Sign Global Partnership to Empower Female Workers in Apparel Industry
Tokyo, Japan — Fast Retailing Co., Ltd., parent of the Japanese global apparel retailer UNIQLO, and UN Women announced today a global partnership to champion women’s rights and empowerment in the apparel industry. This is the first formal alliance between UN Women and a clothing company based in Asia.
“Fast Retailing is committed to ensure that all women who are main players in our business can fully demonstrate their abilities. This is essential for the sustainable growth of the entire supply chain, as well as to continue to offer products that meet customer expectations,” said Tadashi Yanai, Chairman, President and CEO, Fast Retailing Co., Ltd. “Through our joint project with UN Women, we aim to create an enabling environment for all women in our business and those in our company to play an active role in society.”
“Fast Retailing is committed to ensure that all women who are main players in our business can fully demonstrate their abilities..."
“Women comprise the majority of workers in the garment sector, but too often they are segregated into lower paying jobs that offer little chance for advancement. This new partnership with Fast Retailing is a chance to change that,” said UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. “By focusing on women’s economic empowerment and providing women workers with access to specialized training and capacity-building, we are together taking a critical step to galvanize change in the garment industry.”
Under the new partnership, Fast Retailing and UN Women will together promote safe and secure work environments, and advance empowerment for all women and girls. The scope of the partnership, which includes an investment from Fast Retailing of USD 1.6 million (around ¥170 million) over two years (2019-2021), is to jointly implement a programme for female workers in garment factories in Asia, the company’s main production hub. The partnership also comprises a management training programme to further diversity at the company.
Reality Facing Female Factory Workers in Asia’s Garment Industry
While female workers account for around 80 per cent  of the garment industry, men occupy the majority of leadership roles, such as line supervisors and managerial positions. Moreover, female workers are often hampered by gender occupational segregation, pay wage gaps, and gender-based recruitment bias, making it more difficult for them to develop sustainable and fulfilling careers. The rise of new automation technologies and robotics in the industry also presents a new challenge for female workers, as it requires workers to acquire new sets of skills to respond to such challenging changes.
Framework of the Project
The joint project focuses on three areas:
- Capacity building for mid-career female workers in support of their career progression, by providing specialized leadership training to reach leadership positions;
- Providing opportunities for female workers to acquire new skills including those responding to trends in the area of automation;
- Raising awareness of the importance of gender equality and women’s empowerment among men in decision-making positions, to create enabling environments for career progression of female workers.
In its first year, the project will target partner factories in Bangladesh, China and Vietnam, to identify specific local gender-based challenges that female factory workers face. Responding to the findings, a support programme will be developed to provide specialized training for female workers selected from 200 partner factories in the three countries.
Through the partnership, Fast Retailing and UN Women aim to generate a positive effect to local communities and indeed the entire supply chain.
Fast Retailing Co., Ltd. is a leading Japanese retail holding company with global headquarters in Tokyo, Japan. UNIQLO is the largest of eight brands in the Fast Retailing Group, the others being GU, Theory, Helmut Lang, PLST (Plus T), Comptoir des Cotonniers, Princesse tam.tam and J Brand. With global sales of approximately 2.13 trillion yen for the 2018 fiscal year ending August 31, 2018 (USD 19.17 billion, calculated in yen using the end of August 2018 rate of USD 1 = 111.1 yen), With a corporate statement committed to changing clothes, changing conventional wisdom and change the world, Fast Retailing is dedicated to creating great clothing with new and unique value to enrich the lives of people everywhere. For more information about Fast Retailing, please visit www.fastretailing.com.
 Source: International Labor Organization “The future of work in textiles, clothing, leather and footwear”