Women workers in garment manufacturing factories in Bangladesh and Vietnam sleep hungry because of the wages as low as 51 cents an hour, revealed a report titled ‘Made in Poverty – TheTrue Price of Fashion’ by Oxfam Australia.
In a survey conducted by Oxfam, 472 workers were interviewed who were working at factories supplying brands such as Big W, Kmart, Target and Cotton On. The report highlighted that 100 per cent of surveyed workers in Bangladesh and 74 per cent in Vietnam could not make ends meet.
“The investigation has uncovered the widespread payment of poverty wages and the impact this is having on the lives of the workers, mainly women, making the clothes Australians love to wear,” said Helen Szoke, Head of Oxfam Australia.
The Australian fashion industry stood at $ 23 billion in 2018 and Bangladesh and Vietnam made up almost 10 per cent of the clothing imported into Australia in 2017, and is growing. The first in-depth investigation of its kind into the lives of the workers in the supply chains of Australian brands reveals some harrowing facts.
Nine out of ten workers interviewed in Bangladesh cannot afford enough food for themselves and their families, forcing them to regularly skip meals and eat inadequately, or go into debt. About 72 per cent workers interviewed in Bangladesh and 53 per cent in Vietnam, cannot afford medical treatment when they get sick or injured.
The plight of these do not end here. 76 per cent of workers interviewed in Bangladesh have no running water inside their home, while the percentage goes up to more than 40 per cent in Vietnam where workers use well or rain water.
The Oxfam report has also documented an interview of a female worker working in Bangladesh, Chameli. A 30-year-old mother of three, Chameli earns about 51 cents an hour for her work as a helper in a factory in Bangladesh that supplies clothes to big brands including Big W. Unable to meet ends, she has sent her eldest, aged 14, to work in a garment factory.
“If I had enough today, my daughter would not have to work … inside my mind I feel the pain, that today this daughter should have studied and played and this daughter of mine is working,” says Chameli.
The survey found practices by Australian companies were contributing to driving wages down.“They undertake fierce price negotiation, often jump between contracts instead of working with factories over the long term, squeeze lead times for orders and operate with a separation between their ethical and standards staff and their buying teams, who negotiate directly with factories,” the report reads.
Helen clarified that the report is not advocating boycotts of brands, but it is to encourage shoppers to contact fashion retailers via social media to demand living wages for garment workers. Cotton On, Kmart, Target and City Chic have recently announced plans to achieve a living wage for the workers in their supply chains.
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