Climbing the ladder to living wages

The garment industry has the potential to lift millions of garment workers out of poverty. Yet in most garment factories, wages are too low for workers to meet basic needs. In our most recent report, “Climbing the ladder to living wages“, we provide an update of our 2011-2012 living wage research.

‘The worldwide garment industry produces enormous wealth,’ says FWF Director Erica van Doorn. ‘Surely workers can share in these gains. We need to develop effective mechanisms to enable workers earn a wage they can live on.’

The idea of living wages is not a new one. The term has been used since the turn of the last century, and the concept is included in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In recent decades, living wages have come to the fore with the advent of codes of conduct and global supply chains. Nevertheless, the living wage standard is one of the most challenging to implement in garment supply chains.

FWF seeks to find solutions to the main sticking points in many of these discussions. Our goal is to see real improvements in practice. For FWF, there are three key questions that arise in most discussions about wages:

  1. How is a living wage defined / measured?
  2. How much does payment of a living wage increase production costs, pricing along the supply chain, and retail pricing?
  3. What approaches are most effective in raising wages?

Our work this past year has focused on developing real and useful answers to these questions – with the clear objective to move from talk into action.