Ethiopian Factory Making for Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger Pays Workers $1 a Day

Since its inception, Ethiopa’s Hawassa Industrial Park has been portrayed as the standard bearer for responsible garment production in developing economies. But, according to a recent investigation by The Intercept, workers at the park make less than $1 a day.

“In the Hawassa Industrial Park, factory operators make 750 Ethiopian birr, or about $27 a month,” The Intercept found. “Out of this sum, workers must pay for rent and food. They say it is a struggle to afford soap and coffee on weekends.”

Those wages run in stark contrast to the glossy facilities that attracted PVH (H&M, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, JC Penney) and others to the manufacturer. As the story notes, “the well-ventilated sheds are structurally sound, the park contains 17 miles of unblemished paved roads, and all of its wastewater is pumped into a ‘zero liquid discharge’ treatment plant that recycles and reuses 90 percent of the water.”

While all of that is undoubtedly good for a world that doesn’t seem to want to alter its purchasing habits, the story found that the “clean and safe working environment and the focus on the sustainability of the park — for which Ethiopia has been rightly praised — can obscure the fact that workers are still paid poverty wages, just as they have been in every other country where the garment industry has set up shop.”

Management at Hawassa claims that wages are tied to productivity — a policy that has issues on its own — but due to a slower-than-anticipated learning curve, that productivity is unlikely to improve in the next two or three years, the story found, which means that wages aren’t going to go up without outside pressure.

You can read more about it at The Intercept.

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