A living wage for any worker should be enough to cover her or his basic needs, and the needs of her family. In the global garment industry approximately 80% of garment workers are women, aged 18-35. Many have children and families to provide for and are the main income earner. With escalating living costs in housing, food, clothing, education, transport and healthcare, the minimum wage which workers earn simply isn’t enough. In fact, the Asia Floor Wage Alliance calculate that a living wage in India is Cambodia is 283 USD / month, which is 4 times the minimum wage.
A living wage should cover the basic living costs of three consumption units, which translates to one working adult, one child-caring adult and two children, for example, or one working adult and two elderly adults. In countries with no social security and no safety net to help people in need, it is vital that a wage ensures people can live in human dignity. It applies to all workers and there must not be any wage lower than this wage. It is reached within the standard working week, which is not more than 48 hours per week. It is made up of a basic wage before benefits, bonuses and overtime pay.
We work with the Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA), an international alliance of garment trade unions and labour rights activists from across Asia demanding a living wage, established in 2005. They calculated a formula for defining a figure for what a living wage should be across all Asian garment producing countries, based on purchasing power. The figures show that there is a huge difference between the minimum wage and the living wage in most places that our clothes are made.