Fashion is powerful. It’s is a way to express yourself and show support for others, from rainbow colors for pride to pink pussy hats. At Remake, we’re particularly happy to see the rise of sustainable fashion with increased consumer interest and more and more brands doing things right. To continue to support these young conscious designers, makers and shoppers, it’s helpful to remember why we’re fighting this fight — for the resilient women who are hustling hard in a corrupt system stacked against them, all to support their well-being and their family’s brighter futures.
Below, we’ve broken down the prime issues that continue to hold our sisters back from shattering glass ceilings and included the core environmental issues that feed global warming. Freshen up on the facts –
About 65 million people work in the global garment industry, making it an important source of livelihood for millions and their families. However, the pay disparity between the very top of industry and the very bottom is huge. While CEOs of fast fashion companies like Inditex, Zara’s parent company are some of the richest men in the world, those who make our clothes often live in poverty. Minimum wages in many countries with large garment manufacturing industries are just half of the living wage. According to Fashion Revolution, it takes a garment factory worker 18 months to earn what a fashion brand CEO makes on their lunch break. A majority of them earn less than $3 a day.
And in countries like India and the Philippines, over 50 percent of garment workers aren’t even paid the minimum wage. While Western brands look to increase their profit margins by finding cheaper and cheaper labor, garment factory workers are locked into a cycle of poverty and have trouble supporting their families.
Forced Labor/ Overtime
Low wages cause garment factory workers to work excessive overtime in order to earn enough to live. Sometimes workers aren’t given a choice — tight production quotas and deadlines as well as last minute design changes coming from Western brands cause factory management to force their workers to work extra hours without any say in the matter. In Bangladesh, 60 hour work weeks are common for garment factories; 97 percent of factories surveyed by Fair Wear Foundation were found to have excessive overtime. Meanwhile, a 206 report found workers had 80 to 150 overtime hours per month in four factories in China and no time-and-a-half pay. Working long hours in a tedious job is dangerous to the workers’ health and it affects the quality of their products.
Poor Working Conditions
Serious factory accidents claiming thousands of lives have plagued the fashion industry in recent years, from Rana Plaza, Tazreen Fashion and Ali Enterprises. While these high-fatality types of accidents like fires and building collapses are less frequent, working in a garment manufacturing factory means facing a number of workplace hazards.
Exposure to chemicals from dyeing textiles and farming crops, exhaustion from excessive overtime, dehydration from hot factories, injuries from machinery and respiratory illness from inhaling fibres are all things garment workers face.
In 2015, there were 1.4 million injuries recorded in fashion supply chains.
In Cambodia, an epidemic of mass faintings inside garment factories has been a problem for years, as well as dangerous commutes to and from the factories. Nearly 2,000 Cambodian garment factory workers were injured in truck accidents last year. By 2030, the fashion industry is projected to have 1.6 million injuries.
To understand more about the environmental impact of fast fashion, finish the story on Remake.