Labour Behind the Label

Living Wage

A Living Wage is a Human Right

A living wage is a human right, as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

‘Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.

Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.

Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity.’

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 23

In factories in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Cambodia and more, the people who make our clothes live in poverty, usually earning just half of what they need to meet their basic needs and care for their families.

In the UK at least, this is an industry that on paper supports the principle of a living wage. Most high street fashion brands have the commitment to pay a living wage written into their ethical codes. But little is being done to deliver this into the pay packets of workers who desperately need it.

What is a living wage?

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.

In the global garment industry approximately 80% of garment workers are women, aged 18-35

Asia floor wages figures 2015, monthly


Living wage:

29,442 takas

Minimum wage:

Sri Lanka

Living wage:

48,608 Rupee

Minimum wage:


Living wage:

1,630,045 riel

Minimum wage:


Living wage:

18,727 Rupee

Minimum wage:


Living wage:

4,684,570 Rupiah

Minimum wage:


Living wage:

3847 RMB

Minimum wage:

I just want to earn enough to feed my family, have a roof over us and live in dignity.


Key facts

Living wage

Garment workers typically earn between 1-3% of the retail price of an item of clothing.

If a t-shirt costs £8, the worker who made it receives 24p at most.

To double this wage would only be another 24p.

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