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Oxfam urges Oz brands to pay overseas workers a living wage
09
Nov '17
As little as 4 per cent of the price of a clothing item of brands, such as Kmart, Big W, Cotton On and Just jeans, is paid to the factory worker overseas, says Oxfam's new report on Australia's garment supply chain titled ‘What She Makes: Power and Poverty in the Fashion Industry’, authored by Deloitte Access Economics. In Bangladesh, it is 2 per cent.

In countries like Bangladesh, where wages are extremely low, the situation is even direr. As an average of just 2 per cent of the price of an apparel piece in Australia goes towards factory wages, That implies just 20 Australian cents out of the price of an AUD-10 T-shirt is received by the worker, says the report.

That implies the Bangladeshi garment worker could be earning as little as 39 Australian cents per hour, according to the report, which humanises the women garment workers overseas.

While salaries and the cost of living may be lower in developing countries where most Australian brands manufacture clothes, workers there do not receive living wages at present, and cannot afford basic necessities, such as food, housing and health care, says the report.

Oxfam CEO Helen Szoke says it would take a mere 1 per cent per item increase in cost to pay a living wage to the people who make the clothes. And these amounts can be absorbed by fashion and clothing companies in Australia without passing on any burden to consumers, the report emphasises. Szoke advises consumers pressurise brands to pay their factory workers a living wage.

In Bangladesh, the local minimum wage equates to just 39 Australian cents an hour. In Vietnam it is just 64 cents and in China it is 93 cents, and that is not enough for workers to have a decent life. "A living wage is not a luxury but is in fact a minimum that all working people should be paid if they are to escape abject poverty," the report says.

“There is perhaps no starker example of the growing global inequality crisis than the garment industry, where millions remain trapped in poverty on one hand, while a few amass great wealth on the other…. It does not have to be this way. It is time for this unfair system to change,” the report adds.

Oxfam has launched a company tracker on its website to monitor Australia’s leading brands. (DS)

Fibre2Fashion News Desk – India


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