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Garment Workers in BRICS Countries Cannot Afford Basic Quality of Life, Says Study

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Taking the Western European clothing supply chain as a case study, the researchers set out to examine the issue of fairness in global supply chains.

The global garment industry is infamous for its labour sweatshops in developing countries, where workers are grossly underpaid and work under despicable conditions – producing for a global apparel market valued at around 3 trillion dollars.

And a newly published study by the Centre for Environment and Sustainability (CES), at the University of Surrey, yet again confirms that the wages garment workers earn is insufficient to support a decent standard of living.

Taking the Western European clothing supply chain as a case study, the researchers set out to examine the issue of ‘fairness’ in global supply chains.

They analysed garment industry wages in 2005 in the BRIC countries – Brazil, Russia, India and China. They found that garment workers get paid only around half of the ‘living wage’ – required to support a decent standard of living – as calculated by CES for each of the four countries.

In fact, the research extends the concept of the living wage by taking into account the income tax and social security contributions of workers to arrive at the ‘living labour compensation’.

In terms of the living labour compensation, it found that workers on average need to be paid an additional 35% over the living wage to offset the financial demands of income tax and social security.

The study used the Social Life Cycle Assessment (SLCA) approach, which analyses impacts across the entire lifecycle of a product.

So, it considers not only factory workers, but also everyone else involved in the garment industry supply chain, including agricultural farmers.

And it found that agricultural workers are actually the lowest paid in the garment supply chain. While garment factory workers are paid around half the living wage, agricultural workers get paid even less in all the four countries.