The research suggests average earnings were less than US$200 per month in eight of the 12 countries with available data

The research suggests average earnings were less than US$200 per month in eight of the 12 countries with available data

While wages in developing Asia's garment and footwear industry have increased in recent years, they continue to remain low overall – particularly for women – a new analysis suggests.

The latest research note from the International Labour Organization (ILO) into the Asia-Pacific Garment and Footwear Sector estimates that average earnings were less than US$200 per month in eight of the 12 countries with available data.

The report covers China, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines, Lao People's Democratic Republic and Myanmar.

At the high end, nominal average wages in China and Thailand were $582 and $267, respectively.

By contrast, nominal average wages for workers in the garment, textile and footwear sector were only about $100 a month in Cambodia, Lao People's Democratic Republic and Myanmar at the time of the most recent labour force surveys.

However, this means the estimates do not reflect recent changes in minimum wage legislation. For example, in Cambodia the applicable minimum wage has more than doubled since 2012 and was $153 as of 1 January 2017, with a further rise to $170 agreed for 2018.

While women account for the majority of jobs in the sector, they continue to face a considerable wage penalty.

In all 12 countries, average monthly wages for men were higher than that for women, although the intra-regional disparity varied widely.

The gender pay gap was the highest in Pakistan (66.5%), followed by two other South Asian economies, India (36.3%) and Sri Lanka (30.3%). By contrast, the lowest gender pay gap was recorded in Bangladesh at 1.1%. Likewise, in Indonesia and Vietnam, the male-female differential in wages was less than 10%.

The research estimates the garment, textile and footwear (GTF) industry employs more than 43m women and men in developing Asia, with the sector accounting for around 50–60% of total manufacturing employment in Bangladesh, Cambodia and Pakistan.

On top of this, around 75% or more of the workers in GTF production were women in Cambodia, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. Only in India and Pakistan does the industry employ more men than women, reflecting the wider challenge of low female participation in the overall economy.

Job growth in the sector has been robust in Vietnam, expanding on average by 9.7% per annum from 2013 to 2016. Similarly, in Pakistan, employment in the sector grew by 7.8% annually during the period from 2012/13 to 2014/15.

On the other hand, in Indonesia, employment trends fluctuated between 2013 and 2016, but remain mostly unchanged.

In stark contrast, the Philippines witnessed the largest contraction in GTF employment, with an average decrease of 4.3% each year from 2013 to 2016. Likewise, across China public urban units, employment levels in GTF contracted by 3.3% on average annually between 2013 and 2015.

Click on the following link for more detail: Developing Asia's garment and footwear industry: recent employment and wage trends.