May 4, 2024

Fashion x Labor Rights

We’re Running Out of Fresh Water and the Fashion Industry is making it Worse.

Fashion x EJ: Labor Rights


The fashion industry is a $2.4 trillion industry and plays a part in every person’s life. It is the third-largest industry that contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.[1]

The fashion industry is full of significant environmental and social injustices, particularly through exploitative labor practices in its supply chains.

Data Point & Statistics:

  • A 2021 report by Fashion Revolution revealed that garment workers in Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Indonesia earn an average monthly wage of just $249, far below living wages in these countries.
  • Based on data from more than 50 contractors and manufacturers released by the Southern California's Wage and Hour Division found violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act in 80 percent of its investigations. More than 50 percent of the time, the division found employers illegally paying workers part or all their wages off the books, with payroll records either deliberately forged or not provided. [2]
  • Over 90% of workers in the global garment industry have no possibility to negotiate their wages and conditions. [3]
  • By 2030, it is estimated the fashion industry will consume resources equivalent to two Earths, with the demand for clothing forecast to increase by 63%. [4]
  • A McKinsey and Company study found that fashion consumption increased by 60% between 2000 and 2014 alone. [5]
  • An Oxfam 2019 report also found that 0% of Bangladeshi garment workers and 1% of Vietnamese garment workers earned a living wage. [6]

Case Study 1: Worker Conditions

In 2013, the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse in Bangladesh tragically claimed over 1,100 lives, as factory owners ignored signs of structural cracks in the building and forced garment workers to come into work. This exposed the dangerous working conditions and low wages endured by many fast-fashion garment workers. [7]

Case Study 2: Child Labor

43% of children in Ethiopia are child laborers, often working in the garment industry as weavers for as little as $2.27 a week. These children are often forced to work due to family pressure, poverty, culture, or trafficking networks. The garment industry snatches these children’s future, robbing of them of education and freedom. [8]

Case Study 3: Gender Ineuqality[3]

In Bangalore, India over 90% of the 500,0000 garment workers are women earning as little as $60 a day. Due to exploitative conditions in factories, these women suffer from high rates of physical illness and mental illness including tuberculosis, backpain, depression, irregular periods, and much worse. [9]

Solutions: Consumer-Oriented Actions:

  • Transparency and Traceability: Implementing robust traceability systems within supply chains allows brands to identify and address labor violations, ensuring ethical sourcing practices.
  • Living Wage Initiatives: Establishing and advocating for living wage benchmarks encourages brands and manufacturers to provide fair compensation to workers throughout the supply chain.
  • Multi-Stakeholder Collaboration: Building partnerships between brands, NGOs, governments, and worker organizations fosters collective action and accelerates systemic change towards ethical labor practices.

By acknowledging the hidden injustices within the fashion industry and actively pursuing solutions, we can contribute to a more equitable and sustainable future for its workers and our planet. [10]