The fashion industry has immense power. As a 3 trillion USD industry that makes up 2% of the world’s GDP, it has the power to completely transform a market by creating economic development. On the other side of the coin, it also has the ability to hinder the people within that market if they are not paid a living wage.
Dollar Dollar Bills
So how exactly does this 3 trillion break down? According to Fashion United, the womenswear industry is valued at $621 billion; the value of the menswear industry is put at $402 billion; while childrenswear has a global retail value of $186 billion. Others include bridalwear industry, $57 billion; sports footwear, $90.4 billion; and retail value of luxury items, $339.4 billion.
Despite its fortune, the clothing sector is still grappled with challenges such as low wages, poor working conditions, as well as “flexible contracts.” There has been some vast improvement but even in 2018 the problems still linger.
The Demand for a Living Wage
A Racked.com investigation uncovered that factory workers in Delhi, India, endure terrible living conditions, as the units they are provided have fallen far below the requirements for a decent living. The issue continues in Bangladesh where factory workers work overtime only to end up earning incomes that are barely enough to keep them above the poverty line.
In Myanmar, working women struggle to make ends meet so much that they have to make a choice between basic needs such as feeding their children and sending them to school, according to the same investigation. And, you would expect people who live in such pitiable conditions to demand changes; they did. Some, such as Myanmar, have been successful.
It’s hard to believe that such pretty things could have such a toll on those who make them. So, it seems that retailers and brands should just pay the workers the living wage. But, there is another angle to the problem: most brands do not own the factories that produce their clothing. They also don’t set the wages, according to Racked.
H&M Takes the Lead
However, despite the aforementioned information, H&M still set a public intention to pay factory workers the “fair living wage.” The promise, made in 2013, was intended to see over 850,000 company workers across 750 factories earn commensurate salaries by the end of 2018. But as the 2018 self-imposed deadline drew closer, the world’s second-largest clothing company still hasn’t made strides.
H&M has been criticized for its seeming lack of willingness to implement the new minimum wage. As things stand, many critics are now deeming the announcement a mere publicity stunt. But this is no easy feat due to the fact that factories still maintain control over the wages paid out. H&M further stated that they are still holding talks with stakeholders about the “activities and actions within the fair living wage strategy.”