Workers making clothes for Australian brands can’t afford to eat, Oxfam reports

Photograph: Fabeha Monir/OxfamAUS

Women in Bangladesh and Vietnam working for Big W, Kmart, Target and Cotton On earning 51 cents an hour

The Guardian, February 24, 2019

Women in Bangladesh and Vietnam making clothes for the $23bn Australian fashion industry are going hungry because of wages as low as 51 cents an hour, an Oxfam report has found.

The aid group interviewed 470 garment workers employed at factories supplying brands such as Big W, Kmart, Target and Cotton On, and found 100% of surveyed workers in Bangladesh and 74% in Vietnam could not make ends meet.

“The investigation has uncovered the widespread payment of poverty wages and the impact this is having on the lives of the workers, mainly women, making the clothes Australians love to wear,” Oxfam Australia chief, Helen Szoke, said.

“Women who are unable to get treatment when they fall sick, workers who cannot afford to send their children to school, families that cannot make their pay stretch to put enough food on the table, people sleeping on floors in overcrowded houses, spiralling debts, mothers separated from their children – these are just some of the common realities of the failure of big brands to ensure the payment of living wages.”

Nine out of 10 workers interviewed in Bangladesh said they could not afford enough food for themselves and their families and were forced to skip meals or go into debt. In the same country 72% of workers interviewed could not afford medical treatment, compared with 53% in Vietnam. In Bangladesh, one in three workers interviewed was separated from their children because of inadequate income.

The report details the plight of a Bangladeshi 21-year-old single mother, Tania, who works up to 12 hours a day in a factory supplying clothes to brands including Kmart and earns $169 a month, or about 55 cents an hour.

She was forced to send her baby back to her village to be cared for by her parents and sees her daughter only twice a year. ...
Read full article at The Guardian

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