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New Study Exposes Empty Living Wage Promises: Global Garment Brands Get Richer While Continuing to Pay Poverty Wages

From Jennifer (JJ) Rosenbaum, U.S. Director of Global Labor Justice:

Important new research from the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI) at the University of Sheffield — Corporate Commitments to Living Wage in the Garment Industry underscores what Global Labor Justice’s partner the Asia Floor Wage Alliance has evidenced through grassroots people’s tribunals in India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Cambodia. Despite growing profits for corporate executives and shareholders, global garment brands are paying workers on their global supply chains — who are predominantly women — poverty wages.  This report follows groundbreaking research by SPERI Director Genevieve LeBaron on the failure of corporate audits and corporate social responsibility to improve conditions for workers in the global garment supply chain.  

The SPERI report exposes the growing practice of global garment brands who are using living wage pledges as a public relations tool without actually paying workers higher wages. Professor LeBaron concludes: “There is little evidence that corporate commitments to living wages are translating into meaningful change on the ground. As such, consumers are purchasing products they may believe are made by workers earning a living wage, when in reality, low wages continue to be the status quo across the global garment industry.”

Earlier this month, H&M shareholders voted down a shareholder resolution creating a living wage fund for excess profits so that H&M could meet its living wage commitments.  

Global Labor Justice stands with the Asia Floor Wage Alliance in its demand of brands to take responsibility and pay the difference in the supplier paid national minimum wage and the living wage calculated in order to meet the basic needs of garment workers and their families.  

Global Labor Justice challenges global garment brands to meet their human rights obligations and pay their workers a living wage. Poverty wages are a gender justice issue that impacts more than 60 million garment workers world wide, the majority who are women. Poverty wages force women to work excessive overtime in order to supplement wages as little as a third of the minimum living wage calculation, leading to health and welfare impacts for women garment workers and their families. Advancing living wages through a gendered lens is a pillar of Global Labor Justice’s campaign: Gender Justice on Garment Global Supply Chains: An Agenda to Transform Fast-Fashion.




Global Labor Justice (GLJ) is a US based strategy hub supporting transnational collaboration among worker and migrant organizations to expand labor rights and new forms of bargaining on global value chains and international labor migration corridors.