Made in poverty – The true price of fashion

Groundbreaking research conducted by Oxfam has exposed the undeniable truth behind the clothes being sold in shops across Australia: workers are trapped in a cycle of poverty, no matter how hard they work. This research — the first in-depth investigation of its kind into the lives of the workers in the supply chains of Australian brands — has revealed not only harrowing personal stories of individuals, but a systemic failure to ensure payment of wages that are enough for people to afford even the basics of a decent life. Oxfam, together with the Bangladesh Institute for Labour Studies and the Institute for Workers and Trade Unions in Vietnam, has interviewed more than 470 workers across Bangladesh and Vietnam for this study. All of them were part of Australian clothing supply chains at the time of interview, employed in garment factories that supply at least one iconic Australian clothing brand.8 The investigation also included more than 130 interviews with factory owners, managers, union leaders and focus groups to present a clear picture of the way the fashion industry works in Australian garment supply chains. 9 The result is the first full picture of the lives of the people who work to bring fashion to Australian shelves, from two key sourcing countries: Bangladesh and Vietnam. And the evidence is disturbing. Not only are almost all the workers we interviewed being paid well below a living wage; they are also struggling to feed themselves and their families, sometimes going hungry. They fall into spiraling debt, live in poor conditions and cannot afford the healthcare or education they and their families need. Workers in Bangladesh told stories of having to leave school early or pulling their children out of school in order to send them to work in the garment sector to bring in more money — just to cover the necessities. In Vietnam, the comparatively higher wages mean that the situation is relatively less extreme. This investigation reveals that the problems created by poverty wages in the garment industry are not isolated incidents. They cannot be fixed by action in just one factory or by addressing the hardships of just one worker. Only a strong, system-wide commitment from Australian brands with the power to change their practices will turn this around.

For more information, please read more at (English): Made in poverty The true price of fashion

Ref: Emran, S. N., Kyriacou, J., & Rogan, S. (2019). Made in Poverty the True Price of Fashion. Oxfam Australia.