“I was always afraid that due to blurred vision I may lose my job,” confides Hafiza, a sewing machine operator in Bangladesh. “I would continue working even with minor injuries to my fingers caused by the needle.”
Hafiza is not alone in her struggle to work with blurry vision. Globally, one-third of workers have uncorrected vision (Vision Impact Institute, 2012) and most of them do not have access to eyecare services through workplace wellness efforts.
Results from a randomized trial that we conducted with Queens University Belfast, Clearly and Orbis, indicate that simple reading glasses generate the largest recorded productivity increase from any health intervention, as published in the Lancet Global Health (2018).
Just when skilled workers are peaking in their abilities – be they artisans, tailors, mechanics, or farmers – age-related blurry vision jeopardizes their livelihoods and income.
At VisionSpring, we developed the Clear Vision Workplaces programme to provide eyecare and glasses to workers while on the job, enabling them to maintain productivity, extend their working years, and continue to care for their families. We work with factory owners, international brands, agricultural workers, artisan collectives and government agencies to help skilled workers see clearly.
In 2018, we undertook a cross-sectional study to understand the impact of reading glasses on quality of life and productivity among factory workers who had received reading glasses to correct for blurry near vision (presbyopia). The results are encouraging.
Across the board, workers reported increases in productivity, measured in pieces produced per day. The increase varied by product type and job function from a low of 5% among carpet and rug weavers to 9% and 16% among garment workers. A control trial is needed next for more precise results; but in every factory I visit, I hear stories like Hafiza’s which echo the findings.
Now in her VisionSpring glasses, Hafiza shares, “I used to produce 140-150 pieces and now I can produce 160 -165 pieces in a day. I no longer fear I will lose my job.”
Of course, the benefits of clear vision extend well beyond work. Clear Vision Workplace participants reported meaningful changes in quality of life and their ability to complete daily activities; from reading newspapers, holy books and text messages, to sorting stones and pests out of rice and helping children with homework.
VisionSpring’s See to Earn Manager, Alokananda Chatterjee, coordinated vision camps in over 100 factories and production sites last year. She explains, “Clear Vision Workplaces are a triple win. Workers increase their income earning potential and experience improved quality of life, employers benefit from productivity gains and employee retention, and buyers see higher achievement against quality standards.”
Join us in accelerating the uptake of eyeglasses among the 60 million low-income workers who make the world’s clothes, shoes and textiles; the 60 million Hafizas who are propelling national economies and uplifting their communities and families. With clear vision, we have a bright future.
World Optometry Day 2019 stories