Garment Worker Pay at 45% Gap from Living Wage

Workers in key garment- and footwear-producing countries are, on average, receiving just half of the pay they need to achieve a decent standard of living, according to data published Monday by The Industry We Want, a coalition of industry stakeholders calling for better working conditions and environmental sustainability in fashion. Over half of the countries, including India, Vietnam, Cambodia and China, had a gap of over 50 percent to living wage.


The study compared legal minimum wages in 13 countries against benchmarks for reasonable living wages established by organisations including WageIndicator Foundation, Global Living Wage Coalition and the Clean Clothes Campaign. Indonesia was found to have the largest wage gap of 71 percent, followed by China at 68 percent, while Honduras and Turkey were the lowest, at 3 percent and 5 percent respectively. Over half of the countries, including India, Vietnam, Cambodia and China, had a gap of over 50 percent, meaning minimum wages in the country amounted to less than half of what fair pay organisations assess to be a living wage.


A living wage is the minimum income necessary for a worker and their family to meet basic needs, including some discretionary income. This should be earned during legal working hour limits. There is a broad consensus that current wages in most garment producing countries are well below any meaningful understanding of a living wage. We accept any interpretation of a living wage that has been endorsed by local trade unions and has a transparent methodology.


The findings come at a time of prolonged uncertainty for workers in the global garment industry, where issues wage theft and underpayment over the course of the pandemic are currently compounded by inflationary pressures on the cost of living. A July 2021 report by the Clean Clothes Campaign estimated that workers were owed $11.85 billion in unpaid wages and severance between March 2020 and March 2021.


Textile workers in Cambodia

Source: The Industry We Want - Wages