Global chains and cheap labour

The US$2.4 trillion garment and footwear industry has grown rapidly in recent decades, as the demand for cheaper clothing and more variety has increased, and employs millions of workers worldwide.
Modern production and distribution has created a “global assembly line”. Clothes produced in Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe find their way into the clothes racks in the US, Canada, Europe, Japan and Australia.

In Tirupur, India, the “T-shirt factory of the world”, over 200 international brands have their T-shirts produced, including Adidas, Marks & Spencer, Mothercare, Grays, Primark, Walmart, C&A, Levi’s and H&M.

To keep costs low and production levels high, firms in developed countries outsource garment production to developing countries which then move production within and between countries to find the cheapest labour. This competition requires poorer countries to offer the cheapest workers and the most flexible —  unregulated — conditions.

Global brands and retailers have often benefited from weak labor rights, and poor wage and social protection systems in garment-exporting countries, and fueled labor abuses with unfair commercial practices. Factory owners and managers often fire pregnant workers or deny maternity leave, retaliate against workers who join or form unions, force workers to do overtime work and turn a blind eye when female workers are sexually harassed.

Precarious working conditions

Garment workers — 80% are women — experience important differences depending on whether they work as core or contract workers, or as subcontract homeworkers.
The most precarious conditions are faced by sub-contracted homeworkers at the bottom of the garment supply chain and often protected by no guarantees, who do informal work typically paid on a piece-rate basis. About 60% of garment production is done at home in both Asia and Latin America.

A WIEGO study found that most sub-contracted garment workers in Ahmedabad, India, earn under US$2.00 per day; while in Lahore, Pakistan, many earn under US$1.00. 

The cancellation of billions of pounds of orders from the fashion industry due to Covid-19 has left workers around the world, already extremely vulnerable, facing chronic food shortages as wages plunge and factories close.
Interviews with garment workers in Myanmar, India, Indonesia, Lesotho, Haiti, Ethiopia, El Salvador, Cambodia and Bangladesh conducted by Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), found that almost 80% of workers are going hungry.

What can we do?

The European Union is a step closer to developing regulations for holding companies accountable for their actions. In April 2020, European Commissioner for Justice pledged support for binding rules requiring companies to conduct human rights due diligence in their global supply chains.

Meanwhile, there are ways we can help garment workers: putting pressure on the brands to pay up, donating to funds, questioning our role, holding brands to account, calling for fairer laws internationally.

zeroCO2. The tales of zeroCO2

We are not just talking about trees, but about community, innovation and history.
Listen to what we have to say.

keyboard_arrow_left keyboard_arrow_right

Earth Day, a global movement for our home

Earth Day is celebrated on 22 April around the world to raise awareness of the central issue that unites all humanity: protecting our home.

Land warriors: the right to land

The International Day of Peasant Struggles was established in 1996 by the international peasant movement La Via Campesina to commemorate the April 17th…

Gulf Stream slows down as never before

Forests are crucial in sustaining the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people globally, and particularly of Indigenous and local communities with historic ties to forested areas…

make your move!

make your move!

Whether to improve the environment or generate social impact, with zeroCO2 you can’t go wrong: we are a sustainable project in every possible sense.