Chart: The Low Wages of Garment Workers

Most exporting countries with low wages are in Asia, but some are also in Africa, where the garment industry has been booming in recent years.

It’s no secret that workers in the clothing industry have to endure poor working conditions for very low wages in many developing countries. The latest data, collected from various sources (Clean Clothes Campaign and Sheng Lu, University of Delaware), reveals the variation of monthly minimum wages for garment workers. Our chart focuses on a select number of exporting countries where wages are among the lowest in the world: mainly in Asia, but also countries in Africa, where the garment industry has been booming in recent years.

According to Sheng Lu, University of Delaware, Ethiopia, the fastest-growing African economy, has the lowest wages in the global textile industry. In an effort to attract foreign investors, Ethiopia has implemented the lowest minimum wage of any garment-producing country: only $26 per month, or about 23 euros. A study published in 2019 by New York University revealed that several of the world’s best-known apparel groups, including H&M and PVH (the parent company of brands such as Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein), currently employ thousands of workers in Ethiopia. The paper found that while the country’s leaders were proud to showcase projects like the new Hawassa Industrial Park, which opened some 225 kilometres south of Addis Ababa in 2016, the reality is that many Ethiopian garment workers cannot support their families.

Monthly wages are somewhat higher but still extremely low in Madagascar (48 euros), Bangladesh (83 euros) and Pakistan (85 euros). China, which remains the world’s largest exporter of garments despite the rise of competing markets, had a minimum monthly wage of 200 euros for the sector in 2019 (in terms of its national average).

You will find more infographics at Statista, where this article was originally published.