Workers are being paid as little as 39c per hour.

Words by

Veronica Stanford

As we head into one of the busiest shopping periods of the year, Oxfam is again turning its attention to the clothing industry. 

In a new report titled What She Makes, Oxfam has shed light on garment workers who are trapped in a cycle of poverty, despite working for large Australian and International clothing brands.

New research conducted for Oxfam by Deloitte Access Economics shows that on average, as little as four per cent of the price of an item of clothing sold in Australia contributes to wages in garment factories globally. In Bangladesh, one of the world’s biggest clothing exporters, that number is more like two per cent.

Oxfam claims that big fashion companies are keeping garment workers – the majority of which are women – in poverty, by not paying them a living wage. A fair living wage is classified by the organisation as being enough money to provide a worker and their family a decent standard of living, earned in no more than 48 hours per week. It should cover food, utilities, housing, healthcare, education, clothing and transportation, with some leftover money for savings.

While the report details that workers in garment factories globally are being paid as little as 39 cents per hour, it also provides a simple solution to the problem.

According to Deloitte, if big companies were to pass on the entire cost of living wages to consumers, it would only increase a garment’s final sale price in Australia by one per cent. For a $10 tee, that’s only an extra 10 cents you'd need to pay to ensure its maker is getting paid enough to support themselves.

Alongside the report, Oxfam has released a company tracker to show how large fashion companies in Australia – including Kmart, Target, H&M, Zara, Cotton On and Gorman – are doing when it comes to providing living wages for those working in their factories. You can check out the results here and learn more about the What She Makes report by checking out the video below.


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