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New FLA Report: Bangladeshi Garment Workers Routinely Paid Less Than a Living Wage

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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Bangladeshi Garment Workers Routinely Paid Less Than a Living Wage
FLA Calls for “Shared Responsibility” to Address Wage Gaps in Bangladesh’s Garment Sector

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A report released today by the Fair Labor Association demonstrates that garment workers in Bangladesh are earning poverty-level wages, often while relying upon excessive hours of overtime to lift their earnings toward a living wage.

The report, "Toward Fair Compensation in Bangladesh: Insights on Closing the Wage Gap," finds that not a single garment worker, among the more than 6,000 whose wages were studied, was earning income even close to a living wage, measured against living-wage estimates provided by workers, unions, and civil society. While the report found workers’ average wages to be almost 50 percent higher than the legal minimum wage, it also found that those wages were only just above the World Bank Poverty Line. In addition to recommending that Western brands and buyers express support for a higher minimum wage to the Bangladeshi government, the report emphasizes that buyers and suppliers have a shared responsibility to remediate conditions that result in low wages.

“As the world reflects on Bangladesh five years after the Rana Plaza tragedy, there should also be widespread public attention to the ongoing problem of poverty wages among garment workers in Bangladesh today,” said Sharon Waxman, the president and CEO of the Fair Labor Association. “No one who works a regular workweek should be living in poverty; garment workers in Bangladesh deserve to earn fair compensation that allows them to provide for themselves and their families.”

There were two hopeful signs in the report suggesting strategies that responsible business leaders might pursue to support higher wages for workers. FLA researchers found that workers tend to be paid more in factories that show strong respect for workers’ freedom of association and conscientious planning around orders and production deadlines.   Specifically, the FLA’s data analysis revealed that the highest wages correlated strongly with factories where FLA assessors found fewer violations related to inadequate worker representation or poor production planning.  

The report is part of the Fair Labor Association’s commitment to study worker compensation, starting with a global compensation report in 2016.  The 2016 report found that among 21 countries studied, garment workers in Bangladesh were achieving the lowest purchasing power. By adding compensation reporting to its factory assessment methodology, the FLA has provided information that can be used by all stakeholders – governments, NGOs, consumers, unions, brands and suppliers – to remedy the challenge of poverty wages in garment supply chains.

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The Fair Labor Association promotes and protects workers’ rights and improves workplace conditions through collaboration between business, civil society, and colleges and universities. The FLA conducts transparent and independent monitoring to ensure that rigorous labor standards are upheld wherever FLA affiliates source their products, identifies root causes of non-compliances and proposes solutions to workplace problems. www.fairlabor.org