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Garment companies fail to pay living wages

Global garment companies are failing to meet living wage promises to workers, says a study by researchers at the University of Sheffield today. They said it would take a "step-change in approach" for major corporations like Nike, Primark and Adidas to pay wages that "meet the basic needs" of workers and their families. The study by researchers at the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI) at the University of Sheffield found many companies do not have concrete, measurable action plans for achieving a living wage in their global supply chains, or benchmarks for calculating living wage rates.

The global garment industry is extremely profitable but workers in the supply chains that produce clothes are not benefiting from the value they are creating. Until companies can take such steps, living wage commitments are likely to remain in the realm of rhetoric rather than leading to substantial changes that address low wages for workers in the global garment supply chain. A change in approach is necessary for garment companies to achieve living wages in their supply chains.

A lack of transparency around the wages workers receive makes it extremely difficult to evaluate companies’ progress toward meeting their own living wage promises. Instead of altering their purchasing practices to make it possible for suppliers to pay living wages, most garment corporations are outsourcing their living wage commitments to external initiatives.

Some are part of multiple external initiatives, each with different definitions and approaches to living wages, which mean that corporate commitments lack clarity. Corporate supplier codes of conduct are often out of step with the requirements of the external initiatives they are involved with.