New Oxfam report reveals majority of garment workers are not paid a living wage

Image via Oxfam
Words by Fashion Journal


Oxfam has today released a report detailing the harsh living conditions of garment workers in Bangladesh and Vietnam, and the pressure Australian brands are placing on factories in these areas.

The Made in Poverty report is the first in-depth investigation of its kind, examining the lives of workers that produce clothes for some of Australia’s most popular brands.

After interviewing over 470 garment workers in Bangladesh and Vietnam (and another 130 factory owners, managers and union leaders), the report revealed some pretty disturbing findings.

It found that 100 per cent of workers interviewed in Bangladesh were not paid a living wage, with nine out of 10 unable to afford enough food for themselves and their families. In Vietnam, 99 per cent were not paid a living wage, while seven out of 10 women felt their pay was not enough to meet their needs.

Further to that, 72 per cent of workers in Bangladesh (that supply major brands in Australia) cannot afford medical treatment when they are sick or injured. In Vietnam, this figure was at 53 per cent.

One in three workers interviewed were separated from their children, with 80 per cent of those cases due to a lack of adequate income.

Other stories told of families going hungry, spiralling into debt, living in poor conditions and not be able to afford healthcare or education. In some cases, children were pulled out of school in order to work in garment factories – just so the family could cover the necessities.

On the flipside, the Australian fashion industry was worth almost $23.5 billion in 2018. The industry is expected to grow at an annual rate of 1.9 per cent over the next five years, while workers are still paid as little as $169 a month.

The findings build on a previous report by Oxfam – What She Makes – which found that paying adequate wages would add just one per cent on average to the retail price of a piece of clothing.

Factories involved in the recent report supply clothes to brands such as Big W, Kmart, Target and Cotton On. However, it’s important to note that these brands (plus City Chic) have recently announced credible commitments towards reaching a living wage for workers in their supply chains.

Details of each brand’s progress can be found on Oxfam’s Company Tracker here.

Otherwise, head here to view the report in full.


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