• A report by the Fair Labor Association has found garment workers in Bangladesh are "routinely" paid less than a living wage.
  • Not a single garment worker, among the more than 6,000 whose wages were studied, was earning income even close to a living wage.
  • The report calls on brands and governments to take action.
FLA is calling for shared esponsibility to address wage gaps in Bangladesh’s garment sector

FLA is calling for shared esponsibility to address wage gaps in Bangladesh’s garment sector

Garment workers in Bangladesh are earning poverty-level wages, often while relying upon excessive hours of overtime to lift their earnings towards a living wage, a new report has found.

Published this week by the Fair Labor Association, ahead of the fifth anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse yesterday (24 April),' Toward Fair Compensation in Bangladesh: Insights on Closing the Wage Gap'  found not a single garment worker, among the more than 6,000 whose wages were studied, was earning income even close to a living wage, measured against living-wage estimates provided by workers, unions, and civil society.

While the report found workers' average wages to be almost 50% higher than the legal minimum wage, it also found that those wages were only just above the World Bank Poverty Line. In addition to recommending that Western brands and buyers express support for a higher minimum wage to the Bangladeshi government, the report emphasises that buyers and suppliers have a shared responsibility to remediate conditions that result in low wages.

"As the world reflects on Bangladesh five years after the Rana Plaza tragedy, there should also be widespread public attention to the ongoing problem of poverty wages among garment workers in Bangladesh today," said Sharon Waxman, president and CEO of the Fair Labor Association. "No one who works a regular workweek should be living in poverty; garment workers in Bangladesh deserve to earn fair compensation that allows them to provide for themselves and their families."

There were two hopeful signs in the report which suggest strategies that responsible business leaders might pursue to support higher wages for workers. FLA researchers found that workers tend to be paid more in factories that show strong respect for workers' freedom of association and conscientious planning around orders and production deadlines. Specifically, the FLA's data analysis revealed that the highest wages correlated strongly with factories where FLA assessors found fewer violations related to inadequate worker representation or poor production planning.  

The report is part of the FLA's commitment to study worker compensation, starting with a global compensation report in 2016, which found that among 21 countries studied, garment workers in Bangladesh were achieving the lowest purchasing power. By adding compensation reporting to its factory assessment methodology, the FLA says it now provides information that can be used by all stakeholders – governments, NGOs, consumers, unions, brands and suppliers – to remedy the challenge of poverty wages in garment supply chains.

Click here to view the full report.