Sustainable economic development with a genuine and large scale impact requires the engagement of a well-trained and productive workforce. Organized labor and engaged workforce communities have always been a cornerstone of civil society and leaders in social equity and human rights movements. By engaging unions and other organized formal and informal worker groups, GFI seeks to expand the reach of our economic development initiatives and broaden the impact of social services in the countries where we work.
Promoting labor rights and peaceful labor relations is important for attracting investments that create growth and improve livelihoods. Growing trends such as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and the importance of brand reputation means that multi-national companies now view decent working conditions and protection of local community rights as fundamental to the longer term sustainability of their operations. In Guatemala and El Salvador, GFI brought fair labor standards to the forefront of national agendas by leveraging bilateral trade agreement labor obligations and CSR interests. In bringing together such diverse actors as labor unions, international textile and apparel brands, and local private sector and government representatives, GFI helped pave the way for an unprecedented set of agreements that have created the basis for improved conditions and competitiveness in the textile and apparel industries.
GFI also realizes that the majority of poor workers are not covered by national and international labor laws and standards. In fact, in most developing countries nearly all of the poor, almost 75%, work in the “informal sector” and most are women and girls. When developing countries cannot transition or integrate informal workers, economic growth remains low and poverty remains high. In Nicaragua and Guatemala GFI is working to extend social insurance programs and government services while simultaneously creating incentives for workers to formalize their businesses. In a unique model that includes government and private sector participants, this project is addressing the rights of the working poor to access equal economic opportunity.
GFI’s experiences have demonstrated the importance of workforce development for achieving tangible results such as improved working conditions, fair wages, empowered women, and increased market access. Whether in post-conflict Guatemala, or in the challenging political environment of Nicaragua, GFI creates the common linkages that bring Government, Private Sector and Workforce communities together to solve economic challenges and broadly impact poverty reduction goals.