Addressing wages and gender in the Turkish garment sector

In 2022, Fair Wear Foundation, in partnership with the RVO, developed a research project For fair fashion: improving due diligence, wages, and gender equity in the Turkish garment sector looking the Responsible Business Conduct (RBC) of three Fair Wear member brands  King Louie, Schijvens and Kuyichi — supplying from Türkiye and eighteen of their Turkish suppliers, to identify the root causes of human rights risks related to living wages and gender equality, with a focus on violence and harassment in the world of work. 

The research was split into two parts. We are now able to publish two reports based on the findings:

  1. For fair fashion: improving due diligence, wages, and gender equity in the Turkish garment sector: Interviews with garment workers in Türkiye 
  2. For fair fashion: improving due diligence, wages, and gender equity in the Turkish garment sector: An analysis of garment factory’s and brand’s business conduct

Motivations for this research 

Gender inequality and gender-based violence and harassment are significant issues in Türkiye’s  garment sector. Women garment workers tend to be employed in positions that are lower status, temporary, precarious and considered unskilled. Moreover, with only eight per cent of women workers unionised, there are few avenues for women workers to pursue changes. The few studies on gender-based violence and harassment show that it is still a prevalent yet clandestine issue, with there being no official data available in the country. This is partly due to the patriarchal norms in the country, whereby the shame that shrouds the issue makes it difficult for victims to speak out against their experiences. 

Wages in Türkiye are also an important and growing issue. Türkiye has been in a financial crisis since 2018 — the Turkish lira is in a downward spiral, inflation is up, and Covid-19 exacerbated these issues leaving many people jobless or facing reduced pay. In a population of 81 million, approximately 26,4 million people live below the poverty line. This is particularly true in the garment industry where workers are far from receiving a living wage. As women are concentrated in low paid positions and are more vulnerable to violence and harassment, this also has great influence on gender inequality. 

Based on this context, Fair Wear carried out this research project to provide greater analysis of root causes of responsible business conduct impacts and human rights risks related to violence and harassment and living wages, and to formulate concrete actions for the various actors — brands, suppliers, government, Fair Wear and like-minded organisations — on how to prevent and mitigate these risks.  

Part one

A survey was conducted in 18 garment factories with 306 workers in Türkiye, to unveil workers’ perceptions of the living and working conditions, wage levels and incidences of violence and harassment in the garment sector. The research findings provide detailed evidence of long working hours, low wages, deep poverty, gender inequality and the existence of violence and harassment in the workplace. All data collection, data analysis and reporting processes were carried out through a gender-responsive approach.  

Part two

A survey was conducted with 20 Fair Wear member brands and 18 suppliers on Responsible Business Conduct policies of brands and their suppliers on living wages and gender equality, with a focus on gender-based violence. The research team sent surveys to the brands and suppliers, as well as analysed the Codes of Conduct of nine brands. The research revealed that many brands have only carried out partial steps of their human rights due diligence responsibilities for addressing living wages and gender inequality. It also indicated that most suppliers were not taking any actions to implement living wages, citing high inflation and economic instability as the most important obstacles. It is also clear that suppliers should be better supported in combating gender-based violence and harassment. 

To learn more about the research, please read the full reports below: 

Fair Wear and RVO: For fair fashion – brand and suppliers report

Fair Wear and RVO: For fair fashion – garment workers report