Blog: Leonie BarrieCambodia raises garment worker wages

Leonie Barrie | 4 October 2016

The monthly minimum wage for workers in Cambodia's textile, garment and footwear sector is set to rise to $153 from January next year, following a vote on the issue last week. The increase marks a rise of 9.3% on the current minimum wage of US$140.

While unions were pushing for a hike of almost 30% to $180 a month, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has warned significant further wage increases will be hard to achieve unless higher prices are paid by retailers and brands.

Efforts by H&M to work towards a living wage and improve the working conditions at some of its "best in class" supplier factories in Cambodia have been criticised for still being a long way from this goal.

H&M has, however, made progress on its latest sustainable clothing collection, featuring denim styles made using recycled cotton and wool as part of its mission to create a circular supply chain. But the retailer’s earnings tumbled in the third quarter, hurt by increased markdowns and higher purchasing costs from the strong US dollar.

Production delays and falling demand, meanwhile, are being blamed for slowing garment export growth in Vietnam in the first eight months of the year. The Southeast Asian country exported US$18.7bn worth of textile and garment products in the period from January to August 2016.

A new cotton mill in the north of England hopes to play a pivotal role in reviving UK-based supply chains once production gets underway this autumn. Producing quality yarn for high-end apparel, English Fine Cottons is backed by an investment of almost GBP6m and, as the only commercial cotton spinner in the UK, is attracting interest from leading UK brands and retailers.

But world trade in 2016 is expected to grow at the slowest pace since the financial crisis of 2009, according to new World Trade Organization (WTO) forecasts.

More brands and suppliers are pledging their commitment to the Responsible Wool Standard (RWS), with Marks & Spencer, Patagonia, Eddie Bauer, Tchibo and Deckers among the 15 who are supporting its goals on animal welfare and improved traceability.

Tchibo has also become the first retailer in Germany to sign a global framework agreement (GFA) with the IndustriAll Global Union, in a bid to improve worker rights in countries where it sources its merchandise.

Hot on the heels of new initiatives from Under Armour and Adidas, Nike is also speeding up its move from traditional cut and sew manufacturing, where precision is at the stitch level, to digital design where precision is at the pixel level. Its Manufacturing Revolution model is helping increase speed and cut costs.

A warm winter and a cold spring have been blamed for a fall in sales at value fashion retailer Primark. But its lack of e-commerce also leaves it without the flexibility to highlight more transitional ranges and weather appropriate collections online.

The fashion industry thrives on its ability to react to trends – and never has it been more important for these reactions to be lightning fast. Among the tools to help fashion firms meet these demands are unified technology solutions that offer substance over style.

In other news, PVH Corp has launched men's dress shirts with magnetic closures instead of buttons; British retailer Long Tall Sally has rolled out a mannequin based on an exact 3D scan of one of its customers; and a new mobile app can help brands and manufacturers keep up-to-date on changing children's apparel safety regulations.

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