Report shows major clothing brands failing to meet living wage commitments

According to the report, minimum wages in Bangladesh are less than a quarter of a living wage. Photo by Kristof Vadino

A report by Clean Clothes Campaign unveils how global garment and sportswear industries are violating internationally recognised human rights norms and their own codes of conduct.

Recent research into the clothing industry reveals that major clothing brands are failing to meet living wage commitments, violating internationally recognised human rights norms, and their own codes of conduct. The research by Clean Clothes Campaign, a global alliance dedicated to improving working conditions and empowering workers in the global garment and sportswear industries, analyses responses from 20 top clothing companies about their progress in implementing a living wage for workers. “Whilst 85% had some commitment to ensuring wages were enough to support workers’ basic needs, no brand was putting this into practice for any worker in countries where the vast majority of clothing is produced,” the report says.

Of the 20 companies surveyed, 19 received the lowest possible grade – meaning that the companies did not produce evidence that workers were paid a living wage.

“Five years on from our previous survey on this topic, no brand was able to show any progress towards a living wage being paid. Poverty in the garment industry isn’t improving, it’s getting worse. This situation is urgent. Our message to the brands is that human rights can’t wait and workers making the clothes sold in our shops must be paid enough to live with dignity,” said Anna Bryher, the report’s author.

The companies include Adidas, Nike, Puma, H&M, Hugo Boss, Levi Strauss, and GAP.

The report states that minimum wages in Bangladesh are less than a quarter of a living wage. Workers in Bangladesh are not only faced with poor salaries but also unsafe working environments. The collapse of the Rana Plaza factory on 24 April 2013 left more than a thousand dead and thousands more injured. Six years after the disaster, garment worker organisers in Bangladesh say that many employers are still failing to ensure that work sites remain safe. In Romania and a number of other Eastern European countries, the gap is even greater with workers earning only a sixth of the amount they would need to live with dignity and support a family.

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Clean Clothes Campaign’s International Officer, Neva Nahtigal, called for brands to be held accountable for paying starvation wages. “The global economic model that drives down prices and pits low wage country against low wage country is too strong. It’s a fact that the workers who make almost all the clothes we buy live in poverty, whilst huge brands get rich from their labour. It is time for brands to be held accountable for the system of exploitation that they created and profit from,” he said.

The failure to pay workers a living wage, according to the report, forces workers to live in slum housing. Levels of malnutrition and debt are high, and workers are frequently unable to afford sending their children to school, all while working excessive overtime hours just to try to make ends meet. 

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