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  • Writer's pictureSiddhartha Suresh

Getting ready for your first date!

Updated: May 12

Unfortunately, the textile industry continues to be plagued with human rights abuses such as the prevalence of child labor in the industry. Within India, over 500,000 children are actively employed in the cotton industry, while in Uzbekistan, over two million children have been recruited to assist with the two month long cotton harvest. Because child labor is illegal, employers do everything necessary to hide children among the workplace. Audits also generally fail to reveal the truth due to company driven social compliance as well. Employers may also coerce children into working for wages vital for the support of their families. Subcontracted work encourages child labor because they lack legal protections and are often operating in the informal sector. Subcontracted work such as embroidery is often outsourced to unauthorized and unregulated facilities in small workshops, homes, stitching centers, etc. Though in the last two decades, the global trend for child labor is decreasing, the ILO reports an increase of 8.4 million since 2016.

Egregious working conditions are also present within the textile industry. According to a UCLA study into factories in the fashion industry, 72% of garment workers indicated that factories are “brimming with dust”, 60% mentioned that heat and dust made it difficult to breathe and work, while 42% mentioned that they regularly saw creatures such as rats and mice. These employees are often subjected to no ventilation, toxic substance inhalation, and unsafe buildings that frequently cause accidents, death, injuries, etc. The three most famous incidents are the factory fires of Ali Enterprises in Pakistan, factory fires of Tazreen Fashion in Bangladesh, and the collapse of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh that claimed the lives of 1,496 people. The death tolls of the factory fires were due to blocked and inaccessible exits and barred windows. Those who managed to survive had jumped from windows that were considered to be so high that they wouldn’t require bars. Likewise, working hours for garment workers are just as atrocious. Garment workers are subjected to 14 to16 hour days, working 7 days a week. In order to fulfill contracts, they tend to work until 2 or 3 am as well. Basic wages are so low that it is nearly impossible to sustain any type of lifestyle, so working nearly 96 hours a week is a necessity in order to simply live. In most high textile producing countries (China, Pakistan, Bangladesh), the average wage for garment workers is approximately a fifth of the basic livable wage which directly correlates to longer working hours and poorer working conditions, or what the European Parliament equates as “slave labor.”

Finally, workplace violence and gender-based discrimination occurs within the garment industry. More specifically, women often experience occupational segregation due systemic cultural stereotypes, even though the vast majority (80%) of the textile industry are women. In regards to the gender wage gap, according to the ILO, the male-female earnings difference is the highest in Pakistan at 64%, followed by India at 36%, and Thailand at 30%. This can be attributed to the predominance of working mothers in the field who are faced with pay disparity due to additional care responsibilities that reduce earning capacity. Moreover, a study conducted by BetterWork concluded that 36% of garment workers had experienced sexual harassment in their workplace, mostly by advancements made by their superiors. In developing nations specifically, weak legal protections, limited social welfare systems, and a lack of basic services contributes to a culture impunity for acts of sexual violence. Especially those who work in the informal economy within the textile industry, access to adequate assistance is limited, if not non-existent. Gender-based violence occurs at disproportionate rates within the textile industry because of a lack of women in positions of power to stand up and combat it.


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