2 June 2015

Improvement in working conditions attributed to use of social criteria

The inclusion of social criteria within tenders has led to significant improvements in the treatment of factory workers producing surgical instruments in Sialkot (Pakistan), an investigation into labour conditions by Swedwatch, a non-profit organisation reporting on Swedish business relations in developing countries, and the British Medical Association has revealed. Thousands of surgical instruments used in Europe, such as scissors, tweezers and forceps, are procured from Sialkot.

Swedwatch commissioned a report in 2007 into manufacturing conditions in companies in India and Pakistan that supplied the Swedish healthcare sector. The report showed serious instances of labour abuse, including unsafe working conditions, violations of national labour legislation (including unfair working hours), and the widespread use of child labour. Much of these problems were centred in Sialkot. The recent follow up report found that although challenges remain, the situation is significantly better.

The report authors visited factories in the area and found that the prohibition of child labour is now strictly enforced, the minimum wage is upheld, and employees are no longer forced to work overtime. The report concludes that the benefits achieved through the inclusion of social criteria provide a strong argument for their inclusion in the procurement of other product categories.

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