The vast majority of garment workers around the world live below the poverty line, but it doesn’t have to be that way. At least according to a recent story from Racked, which states (rather bluntly) that “if brands wanted to pay their workers a living wage today, they could.”
While defining a “living wage” can be legitimately complicated — the number can “vary wildly from one locale to another” — ultimately, the article posits, it’s not in and of itself a real impediment to higher wages.
Nor is potentially alienating customers with increased prices. Even though research has shown that consumers aren’t always willing to pay more to ensure better worker treatment, according to the story, they wouldn’t really have to, as “a garment worker’s wage is only 1 to 3 percent of the total cost of most clothing.”
(For example, it would only cost H&M “1.9 percent of the $2 billion it made in 2016 to pay all its Cambodian workers the additional $78 per month they would need to achieve a living wage.”)
So what’s really stopping them from paying their workers more?
Based on the story’s findings, it seems to be an imbalanced cocktail of competitive cost-cutting, a lack of government advocacy, consumer complacency, and what the story cites as most brands’ “willfully obtuse” behavior.
But again, it doesn’t have to be this way. Racked found a handful of labels that, by raising the MSRP of their items a nominal $0.16, have been able to raise wages, and the results have been overwhelmingly positive for brand and worker, alike.
“Paying a living wage can have immediate, tangible benefits… At [one] factory where the scheme is being piloted, absenteeism has plummeted. And recruiting new workers has never been easier.”
Seems simple enough.
You can read more about it at Racked.