On Tuesday, the Fair Wear Foundation (FWF) — a Dutch non-profit that works with companies and factories to improve labor conditions for garment workers – launched the Living Wage Portal, a platform through which FWF aims to uncover and overcome the many obstacles that prevent garment workers around the world from earning a living wage.
FWF says the best wage is a negotiated wage, set by businesses and workers together. But in major garment-producing countries such as Bangladesh and Cambodia, productive dialogue between workers and factories is rare — a key roadblock to better wages. Other major obstacles addressed in the portal include:
- How much more would living wages cost brands and consumers?
- And how to ensure that this money gets to the workers?
As FWF points out, there is no single, simple solution for wage issues in the garment industry. The Living Wage Portal offers real-life examples of brands working with factories towards living wages — such as German sportswear brand FWF member Switcher, a FWF member, did by setting aside a certain amount per garment for Chinese workers at one of its suppliers. The platform also offers insights from Oxfam and IndustriALL, considerations for living wage implementation, access to tools and voices from workers and local stakeholders.
The road to living wages may be a long one — all the more reason to start the journey right away, FWF says. While larger brands such as H&M have committed to instituting a living wage for all of their workers, and taken steps toward that in both Cambodia and Bangladesh, progress has been slow.
“There is no excuse for waiting: This portal shows that there are steps towards paying living wages that the industry can take today,” says FWF director Erica van Doorn. “FWF hopes that all actors in the industry will be inspired by the solutions and the experiences discussed on the portal and will continue to add new examples for others to learn from.”
Developed with the support of Mondiaal FNV, the Living Wage Portal is aimed at FWF member brands and all other actors working on living wages in the garment industry. The organization emphasizes that collaboration is key; no single actor — worker, union, factory, brand, government, consumer — alone has the power to ‘just’ pay higher wages, in any sustainable way. FWF’s Living Wage Portal offers the opportunity to share progress and learn from each other.
“Complicated issues are divided into manageable pieces for different actors in the chain, so no one can hide anymore,” Dian van Unen, Head of Mondiaal FNV, says about the web portal. “Everyone can get to work now, to deal with a piece of the problem.”