A recent poll conducted by ActionAid has unveiled a concerning trend among UK shoppers this Christmas season, highlighting the rampant overconsumption of cheap clothing, with more than a third of respondents planning to spend £20 ($25) or less on each new item.

The poll also reveals that 55% of Christmas celebrants intend to buy at least one new clothing item as a gift, and almost a quarter (24%) plan to purchase four or more items.

This surge in clothing purchases, often driven by affordability, has sparked concerns about the impact on garment workers in Bangladesh, the world’s second-largest clothing supplier.

As garment workers in Bangladesh face low wages and poor working conditions amid rising living costs, ActionAid is shedding light on the human toll of cheap clothing.

Despite a government-approved increase in the legal minimum wage, workers argue that it is insufficient for survival, resulting in mass demonstrations in Bangladesh.

The protests that took place in October, led to the tragic deaths of 4 garment workers and yesterday (2 January) garment factories in Bangladesh reportedly terminated the employment of hundreds of workers following the protests.

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According to ActionAid, the UK, a significant destination for garments produced in Bangladesh, is contributing to the demand for inexpensive clothing.

ActionAid found that the surge in demand for low-cost clothing perpetuates the cycle of exploitation and poor working conditions in Bangladesh.

In addition to shedding light on the issue, ActionAid is advocating for change. The organisation is urging consumers to consider the impact of their purchases on the lives of garment workers like Hajera, a 36-year-old mother-of-two from Dhaka.

Through ActionAid’s initiatives, including women’s cafes in Dhaka, workers like Hajera have gained knowledge about their rights and negotiated for better conditions.

Hajera, who is now a leader of change in her workplace, highlighted the positive impact of such initiatives: “The factory now provides new mothers with maternity leave. That’s a big change. Also, our salaries used to get paid very late on the 30th of the month, whereas now we receive it by the 10th. Change happened. Workers are happy. Things have progressed a lot.”

Despite the challenges, ActionAid, along with its local partner Karmojibi Nari, continues to support survivors of the Rana Plaza disaster, offering training in new livelihoods and business management.

Susan Wilders, co-director of fundraising at ActionAid UK, emphasised the importance of solidarity, and said: “This year, ActionAid is asking people to think twice about the women making the clothes they are buying and to support our campaign, helping them continue to fight for their rights.”

Yesterday (2 January), garment factories in Bangladesh reportedly terminated the employment of hundreds of workers following protests for higher wages in October, despite global fashion brands urging the Bangladesh Government not to retaliate against participants both during and after the minimum wage review.