It’s no secret that garment workers are largely underpaid, and the rural end of fashion companies were built on top of poverty. An estimated 98% of garment workers don’t earn a living wage according to ethical fashion brands Nisolo and ABLE. Guaranteeing a living wage should not be such a struggle, as the art of clothing that puts us warm and keeps us safe is beyond measures – one of the three major elements of human needs followed by shelter and consummation.
Workers remain trapped in poverty while big fashion companies continue to profit from their hard work. This does not make sense, as labour is just a fraction of a brand’s overall costs and would likely not meaningfully increase the prices of individual garments. It is a deeply unfair and exploitative system, and we must demand better. Campaigns like fashionrevolution.org have made the effort, and we are utterly thankful for that. Yet, drastic measures should still be taken.
This problem has been going on for years, possibly centuries. How could the matter be solved? We have compiled a few tactics from a few sources to help release this matter and hopefully, make a change.
- Fair pricing is key to a living wage and brands must have the courage to change their profit model. Only when brands pay their suppliers fairly will those suppliers and factory owners be in a position to pay their workers a decent wage.
- Fairer pricing, a living wage and more power for workers to negotiate through union representation are the next steps for creating a responsible, sustainable garment industry.
- Governments must ensure that an increase in wages for workers is not taken by the powerful. For example, landlords in Phnom Penh raised the rents in slums in anticipation of the recent wage rise for garment workers, wiping out much of their gains.
- Not only should brands make a meaningful commitment to paying living wages and consult unions and worker representatives along the way, but they should have some accountability built in to ensure they actually achieve, not perceive.
The effort that our brand, PRLA, has taken should hopefully be a stepping point and example for what a sustainable fashion brand should take decisions upon. We operate through a strictly ethical environment, material and labor-wise. Providing fair labour is the bare minimum effort that more brands should take upon. Happiness equals beauty, and eventually success.
Organisations, brands, people in general – everyone should chip in to create a huge enough effect over this statement. Promoting sustainability through defining a living wage is not necessarily an end goal, but one that will continually evolve and require inclusive care and negotiations.
- The Guardian
- Conscious Life and Style
- Fashion Revolution
- Eco Textile