DP 43: Repeat, Repair or Renegotiate? The Post-COVID Future of the Apparel Industry

16 Jul 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused considerable hardship across the global garment industry. With the bulk of garments being produced in Asia, the region remains at the front line of the adverse effects rippling through the global supply chain. This Discussion Paper builds on the 2020 ILO Research Brief that assessed the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on workers and factories in garment supply chains in Asia and the Pacific.

This paper uses qualitative research methodology to explore and connect long-term changes in the garment industry before the COVID-19 crisis with the industry’s post-pandemic future. As such, it contextualizes choices made during the pandemic and imminent decisions with trends that were already shaping the industry.

The paper presents three possible scenarios for the post-pandemic garment industry: repeat, regain, and renegotiate.

  • The repeat scenario is the default that would include a return to pre-pandemic trajectories,
  • The regain scenario encompasses changes to industry structure and sourcing norms but minor transformations in governance, and
  • The renegotiate scenario imagines an industry where changes to the structure, sourcing and governance are integrated and mutually reinforcing.

The three scenarios are discussed with a focus on the actions of brands and policymakers and their downstream effects on garment manufacturing countries. Each scenario outlines possible changes in the industry structure, sourcing and governance, and implications for the different actors in the global garment supply chain, focusing on the likely effects on workers, employers and governments across Asia and the Pacific.


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