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Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Pandemic deprives Asia’s garment staff of just about $12bn in wages

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Asian garment staff have been disadvantaged of just about $12bn in wages and severance pay as worldwide retailers cancelled orders and demanded worth reductions within the wake of the pandemic, in keeping with a labour rights group.

The Clear Garments Marketing campaign mentioned that roughly 1.6m garment staff had misplaced their jobs in seven Asian international locations, together with Bangladesh, India and Myanmar, with many denied severance pay. Staff within the international locations it surveyed, besides Indonesia, had on common misplaced pay equal to 2 months’ wages or extra.

As factories throughout Asia closed down on account of lockdowns or cancelled orders, workers have been laid off or paid solely a small proportion of their regular wages, creating big points for staff in an trade the place low pay makes saving tough.

Khalid Mahmood, director of the Pakistan-based Labour Schooling Basis, mentioned lay-offs and underpayment within the $2.5tn international trend provide chain have been “not taking place in simply that one manufacturing facility in Bangladesh or Pakistan”.

“It’s taking place all through the garment trade [with] garment staff globally being owed $11.85bn,” he added.

Most western trend retailers moved garments manufacturing away from their dwelling international locations to south and south-east Asia a long time in the past searching for cheaper labour. This has gone hand-in-hand with the rise of so-called quick trend — very low cost garments that are supposed to solely be worn just a few occasions after which discarded.

When pandemic lockdowns hit Europe and the US, most of the world’s largest retailers responded by demanding heavy retroactive discounts or refused to pay for orders, as they initially feared they might wrestle to promote garments. Revenues slumped at some high-street manufacturers, however many giant retailers have returned to profitability as lockdowns have eased.

H&M, the Swedish trend retailer, mentioned it was conscious that the hours of many Asian garment staff had been lower on account of “prevalent lockdowns the world over and decreased buyer demand”.

“There’s undeniably a necessity for structural change in a number of garment-producing international locations with weak social safety programs,” the corporate instructed the Monetary Occasions, noting that it had throughout “these unprecedented occasions totally stood by our accountable buying practices”.

Inditex, the Spanish proprietor of the Zara chain, which produces most of its garments in Morocco, Turkey and Spain, mentioned it had paid in full for all orders that had been produced or have been in manufacturing when the lockdown hit.

It additionally mentioned it was supportive of unionisation and collective bargaining in its provide chain “as a method to promote employee rights and honest wages”.

The connection between worldwide trend manufacturers and people who sew the garments has lengthy suffered from an influence imbalance.

The autumn in costs paid for Asian-made clothes, which has been evident for years, had been accelerated by the pandemic, mentioned Christie Miedema, marketing campaign and outreach co-ordinator at Clear Garments Marketing campaign.

“The velocity at which costs are being pushed down now could be because of the disaster . . . many garment factories are in monetary misery after order cancellation and [are] determined,” she mentioned.

The marketing campaign group warned that as coronavirus an infection charges continued to climb the world over, the state of affairs for garment staff was more likely to develop worse. It estimated the area’s wage and job losses primarily based on statements from employers, trade and employee surveys in addition to media experiences.

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