Despite numerous initiatives promoting living wages for garment workers in the Global South, there is little evidence of any real progress being made, observe and uncover QUT researchers.
The QUT Centre for Justice Modern Slavery Research Group is calling on fashion companies to implement a worker-centered living wage into their purchase orders to truly improve wages for garment workers.
The researchers studied two credible methods for calculating a living wage for specific countries and conditions and found that leading fashion companies and their respective living wage initiatives do not use any meaningful method to calculate a living wage for their workers.
The Fair Wear Foundation (FWF) is the only organization providing a tool to use wage data to price a living wage into a garment's production costs. FWF was founded by activists, labor unions, and retail associations and attracts small fashion brand members striving to be ethical producers. The researchers emphasized that living wage calculations and initiatives must take into account the gendered nature of garment manufacturing and that fashion companies' business models rely on exploitative worker conditions, contributing to them by seeking the lowest prices in developing countries.
Governments in the Global South are afraid that companies will relocate to cheaper countries and suppress workers' calls for higher wages or unionization. The QUT researchers' findings highlight the need for a change in the fashion industry's approach to living wages, urging companies to prioritize fair wages that allow garment workers to meet basic needs like decent housing, food, healthcare, and education costs.
The researchers argue that until companies take responsibility for ensuring fair wages and working conditions, workers will continue to struggle to make ends meet.