Roughly 55 million women currently work in textile factories, predominantly in South East Asia. Most are young, unmarried, and with little education. They are often born in rural areas, and migrate to cities to find work. The garment industry gives them the means to support their families back home. But these employment opportunities are generally open to them because their labour is often inexpensive. Read more
Fair Wear Foundation has been actively assessing the role of gender in the garment industry. This work has highlighted key areas where gender-based issues regularly arise.
Female workers continue to fill the vast majority of low-skilled, low-wage positions in garment factories. It is rare to see women represented in the medium and top paid production positions, which are dominated by their male colleagues. Concerns about wage inequality is not only an issue in the garment industry; according to the International Labour Organisation, on average, women’s hourly wages are less then mens in 89% of countries around the world.
However, the stakes are particularly high for female garment workers considering that most factories are currently unable to pay workers a living wage. Low-wage women workers will face a greater struggle in making ends meet, particularly in cases where they are their family’s main source of income. Both female and male workers may rely heavily on overtime hours in order to earn enough to live on.
Future work by Fair Wear Foundation will provide greater insights into gender-based concerns in the workplace, including ways to identify wage inequality. See the FWF violence against women portal to learn more.
A guest blog by Gisela Burckhardt, development expert and head of the Executive Board of FEMNET e.V.
We are avid consumers. Today, we buy 4 times more clothes than we did in the 1980s. And why wouldn’t we? The price of clothes is at an all-time low. But making clothes is a costly enterprise. And workers in textile factories are paying the price– with starvation wages, unpaid overtime and even their lives. Considering that most workers in the garment industry are women, it is women who are disproportionately paying the price for our fast-fashion hunger. Read more
Juliette Li, International Verification Coordinator at FWF shares the answer to the question of why so few women reach the position of supervisor in Bangladesh
When I visited a factory in Bangladesh, I asked the factory manager why there were so few female supervisors. He hesitated a bit, as if he found it difficult to give me an answer. Then he said, ‘Oh, usually women do not like this kind of responsibilities.’ When I asked him why, he pointed at a women standing next to a sewing machine and said, ‘She is the only female supervisor at our factory. She can explain.’ Read more
Women often have a double job. They work in the factory and then go home to take on household chores and look after their children often without much help. Balancing these responsibilities can be difficult sometimes. The story of Nazima shows how the balance between overtime and child care can be difficult to maintain sometimes. Read more
Women’s Safety at Work the widespread problem of gender-based violence (GBV) in garment factories. Fair Wear Foundation has worked together with brands and factories to get solid information on the extent and scope of the problem in different countries, as well as on how much workers know about their rights. Read more
Line and floor managers are often under a lot of pressure to meet delivery targets. So they request workers to work extra hours. In Bangladesh, overtime is regulated by law, but the rules are not always applied. Rahima’s case illustrates very well how the issues of low wages, overtime and harassment are linked. Read more
Fair Wear Foundation’s 8 Labour Standards form the basis for its work with members, factories, and workers. When workers are not aware of their rights, they are not empowered to claim them. Between 2012-2013, FWF conducted a survey among women workers in garment factories in Bangladesh. Read more
Fair Wear Foundation’s own Margreet Vrieling tells us a short story about women, and women who work in garment factories. What are the main problems they face? And what can we do to improve the situation?