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Leather Products

The leather-based industry especially leather products industry (footwear, garment, leather goods) is highly fashion oriented.  Moreover, articles made of (genuine or simulated) leather are complementing clothing. Leather products (shoes, garment, leather goods) is important export earner for many developing countries. In many countries leather products export ranks within the first three places in the total export.  Especially the footwear industry’s importance to the national economies in developing countries is underlined by the fact that it is the main contributor to the countries export and – being a labour intensive industry – provides employment to the most vulnerable groups of the society (including a large number of women) in towns and villages where other job opportunities are very scarce.  The most of the leather products and footwear industry is dominated by small- and medium-scale operations. These SMEs lack of design information, product development knowledge, information and educated personnel for applying up-to-date quality assurance techniques and productive technology.  The institutional background is weak in providing necessary services, support and professional training needed for becoming competitive and thus remaining in business (providing/maintaining working opportunities). UNIDO with other institutions and organizations through tailor made technical assistance assisted to up-grade and enhance leather products sector.

Primitive tools made of stones and bones were the first equipment used for removing unwanted substances (fat, meat, hair) from the cured/conservated (by minerals) animal hides in order to protect the human foot and the body. For thousands of years only pits, various hand tools and simple machines were used in processing leather and making derived products such as shoes, gloves, bags, belts, harness and upholstery. With the gilds manufacturing processes were split into distinct operations that facilitated the construction of mechanisms and machines to assist manual workers or later to replace them. Mechanization of leather processing and leather products production started with the industrial revolution and accelerated by the invention of electric engines. Tanneries making leather from raw animal hides/skins use today heavy moving vessels (paddles, drums, mixers), mechanical and hydraulic equipment became a capital intensive and energy consuming industry. Nevertheless, basic principles of leather processing has not changed, automation made a limited impact on this industry. Chrome tanning will probably dominate leather making in the next decades, more and more through feed types of machines will be applied, but solid and liquid waste recycling or disposal remains the major problem of this trade. In spite of introduction of new and productive technologies (CAD/CAM, injection moulding etc.) leather products manufacturing is still a labour intensive industry. Future development is expected from robotization, further computerization, use of biotechnology and artificial intelligence. Use of commodities made of leather (derived from animal hides/skins) will be influenced by tendencies in meat consumption (raw hides/skins are by-products of the meat industry), achievements of the material science (development of synthetic leather substitutes having the same or even better hygienic and wear properties as leather) and additive manufacturing (e.g. 3D printing.) 

Based on available and reliable data the foot measurement survey made in India in 1999 led to a very important conclusion: the proportion (i.e. shape) of feet of the local population differs considerably from what is built in European and North-American shoe lasts. The main reason is the ethnic (anthropologic) difference between European and American people, but the fact that the overwhelming majority of the Indian population wears open type of footwear (sandals, chappels, slippers etc.) or nothing must have its impact as well. Although substantial differences have been identified between geographic regions of the country it is quite apparent that

Indian feet are flatter, i.e. their forepart - especially around the ball and waist part - are wider and lower than in

case of European feet. Indian feet have shorter forepart: the distance of ball points from the heel part is relatively larger than that of European feet. The consequences are that footwear made on European shoe lasts do not really fit on Indian feet (i.e. they are not comfortable) and wear off quickly. Further distinction should be between different regions of the country. All this means that specially designed shoe lasts should be used for footwear produced for domestic sale in India.

Recommendations and preventive measures in response to COVID-19: Guidance for the industrial sector

This tool provides guidance to employers, workers and their representatives on preventive measures for a safe return to work in the context of COVID-19, conforming to well established principles and methods on occupational safety and health risk management.

There are many other useful guidelines and recommendations available.

Hides, skins and leather form a critical strategic sector for the economic and industrial development of Ethiopia. 

Realizing the diverse and unique issues of women employees, the EU funded  LISEC project integrated gender mainstreaming as a cross-cutting theme. The gender mainstreaming process aims to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in selected tanneries, slaughterhouses, and hide and skin trading companies.

In order to have a deeper understanding of the gender issues that exist within the leather industry and thereby devise a strategy to address the identified concerns, UNIDO, through its LISEC project, collaborated with the gender directorates of MoTI and LIDI to conduct this gender analysis. The main
objective of the gender analysis was to gain a clear insight into the gender issues affecting the leather value chain and thus identify recommended strategic actions for more gender-responsive planning and implementation from 6 abattoirs, 6 tanneries and 2 hide and skin trading companies.

The General Objective of the study was to conduct a gender analysis to have a deeper understanding of gender issues in the leather value chain and thereby devise a strategy to address the identified issues.
Specifically, the gender analysis aimed to:
 Assess the representation, participation, and decision-making of women and men employees.
 Assess women and men stakeholders’ access to and control over resources.
 Understand cultural gender roles, norms, relations, stereotypes, prejudices affecting women and men.
 Identify the presence and justification for sex/gender-based job segregation.
 Assess practices of recruitment, retention, promotion of women and men employees.
 Assess implementation of gender-related provisions (including the revised labour law) within stakeholder companies.
 Examine the presence of conducive and family/women-friendly work environments.
 Assess migration patterns to address women’s integration in the project in the best way possible.
 Provide strategic recommendations to address challenges that women and men face, while promoting gender equality as well as women’s empowerment.

"SAFE Leather" must mean safe for operators and workers, as well as safe for consumers and communities. Company management must ensure that the workplace provides workers and anyone else attending the workplace with access to appropriate first aid equipment. Management must also ensure that the workers have access to an adequate number of persons who have been trained to administer first aid.

First Aid course/training should be mandatory for all emplyees. 

First Aid course Modules
Module 1: First Aid Kit - content
Module 2: First Aid Dealing with Heart Attack
Module 3: First Aid Dealing with Burns
Module 4: First Aid Dealing with Accidents Involving Chemicals
Module 5: First Aid Dealing with Contusions
Module 6: First Aid Dealing with Eye Injuries
Module 7: First Aid Dealing with Severe Bleeding
Module 8: First Aid Dealing with Eelectricity


To enroll into the course please follow the link

Course: Occupational Safety and Health Aspects of Leather Manufacturing  - This training programme has been primarily designed for a wide range of people involved in the leather industry: from owners and tanners to managers and supervisors to tannery workers and technicians. Some parts of the training can be used by participants as self-study material. The training can also help in an exchange of ideas on how to improve the occupational safety and health standards at work in the tanneries and effluent treatment plants.


Safety training for employees is important because it reduces workplace injuries, boosts productivity, and creates a safer workplace. 


Employers have a legal responsibility to provide key safety information to staff. Your staff need to understand Health & Safety basics in the workplace. The Health & Safety Awareness Course will deliver exactly that and provide your business with legal compliance.


All practitioners involved in the leather industry but the core principles are applicable to all industries.


This interactive course introduces the participant to many aspects of the Health & Safety at Work and is intended to help raise safety standards and awareness. Blended learning, group activities, case studies, etc will introduce key components and strategies to managing safety effectively.


The OSHALM Training is a blended learning programme which comprises classroom and online/self-paced components.

The course curriculum is structured into the following eight modules


The Health & Safety Awareness Course is perfect for delivering safety awareness information to your staff.

Safety training is more than just a vital tool to keep your company compliant – it’s also an opportunity to foster a strong safety culture throughout the entire organization to make compliance the priority from the start.

Course link:  

Throughout the world, women make a vital contribution to industrial output.. Their work not only sustains their families, but also makes a major contribution to socio-economic progress. The creativity and talents of all women are an invaluable resource, which can and should be developed both for their own selfrealization and for the benefit of society as a whole.

The key to enhancing women’s opportunities, and hence their position in industry and the economy, is to provide them with access to know-how, technologies and credit. Training to upgrade women’s technological capabilities and to enhance their entrepreneurial and business skills, whether in simple artisanal production or in high technology industries, is at the heart of allowing women to advance to more rewarding positions. All these activities are an integral part of UNIDO’s technical assistance programmes.

The case-studies presented in this series of brochures demonstrate that engament of women women and gender neutral management can be also for benefit of the leather sector.

The Global Leather Coordinating Committee (GLCC) in 2013 sought to identify real and perceived strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of importance to the leather industry. This paper sets down a mosaic of major issues stemming from these considerations.This paper was published in the World Leather (February/March 2014).

This survey prepared and presented during the 17th UNIDO Leather Panel is a follow-up to Worldwide Study of the Leather and Leather Products Industry, which was the outcome of an exhaustive survey carried out by UNIDO in the 1970s. It is intended to assist the Organization in the formulation of future assistance programmes and in detecting areas where further study of various kinds may be useful. This report assesses the worldwide prospects of the leather and leather products industry in the coming decade. It examines the major underlying trends of recent years and how they are expected to evolve in the short to medium term. In its attempt to provide a thorough picture of the leather sector, the report covers its various aspects: the availability of raw material, the tanning industry, and the manufacture of footwear and other leather products. The basic intention is to help discern prevailing trends in global trade and to support efforts to design an effective role for organizations in the industrial development arena. The findings and forecasts published here are meant to be indicative rather than definitive and to form a basis for further surveys and studies. The need to compile this report arose out of the 16th session of the UNIDO Leather and Leather Products Industry Panel held in Brazil in May 2007. The panel recommended that UNIDO undertake a comprehensive study on the future development of the world leather and leather products industry, a study that would cover demand, technology, production, and trade. Consequently, the UNIDO study provides an analysis of the contemporary demand for leather products (footwear, leather goods, gloves, leather garments, sports goods, upholstery, etc.) vis-à-vis the availability of resources (raw hides and skins, manufacturing capacities, skilled labour, knowledge, support industries, and services). It also contains information on other important aspects of the leather industry: trade statistics, the geographic distribution of production, technology developments, physical infrastructure, environmental conditions, and social aspects involved in the production of leather.

The publication by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), “Making private standards work for you: A guide to private standards in the garments, footwear and furniture sectors”, outlines a strategic approach for suppliers in developing countries. Private standards, also known as business values, norms, ethics, codes, principles or morals, are considered to be one of the ways of promoting social development and environmental sustainability in global value chains. Some estimates suggest that more than 1,000 codes of conduct and management systems exist. But most companies in developing countries do not have much tangible information. The guidebook was funded by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) and developed in collaboration with the Dutch Centre for Promotion of Imports from developing countries (CBI). The guidebook is available in English, French and Spanish, and can be downloaded here: