fashion brands make progress towards paying garment workers a living wage
Living wages empower women.
Human rights organisation Oxfam Australia is marking International Women’s Day this year by celebrating the recent steps period underwear brand Modibodi and activewear brand Lorna Jane have taken towards ensuring their garment workers are paid a living wage (i.e. enough moolah to cover the basic essentials for a family, including unexpected events).
As both companies promote women’s health and wellbeing as part of their brands, Oxfam has been calling on them to ensure the women who make their clothes (not just those who wear them) are able to live healthy lives. Modibodi, which was added to Oxfam’s Company Tracker today, has already made a commitment towards paying a living wage, according to Oxfam Australia chief executive Lyn Morgain. “To meet this commitment, this year they will develop a roadmap to separating labour costs in negotiations with suppliers, and paying living wages,” she says. “They’ve also committed to publishing their factory list next year and we eagerly await this critical step towards transparency.”
Lorna Jane has also made progress since it was included on Oxfam’s ‘Naughty List’ late last year. Today, the company committed to publishing its factory list on its website. “Knowing where factories are located means any claims they make can be independently verified, helping us ensure workers’ wellbeing and health,” Lyn says.
It’s super-important that Aussie brands pay their overseas garment workers properly – especially when the vast majority of them are women. “In China, more than 70% of garment workers are women, in Bangladesh the share is 80%, and in Cambodia it's as high as 90%,” Lyn says. “Like many other female-dominated industries, these jobs offer lower wages and the link between these poor wages and poor health outcomes is clear.”
To put that into perspective, past Oxfam research has found more than half of garment workers in Bangladesh and Vietnam can’t afford proper medical treatment when they’re sick. And more than three quarters of workers in Bangladesh and a whopping 94% of workers in Vietnam can’t take sick leave when needed.