by Emily Draznik on
Mass retailer H&M is fighting against allegations made in a Swedish documentary saying the retailer does not do enough to ensure their Cambodian workers are being paid a fair wage.
In the highly competitive retail market we have today, cost efficiency can make or break how a garment is priced. Companies have been outsourcing their manufacturing to cut costs on wages ever since the economy took a turn and retail customers grew to be more price conscious. H&M is one of those fast retailers that is famous for their extremely low prices, but this does not come at a cost. The retailer is coming under scrutiny by a Swedish television documentary that states they are not doing everything in their power to ensure their Cambodian workers are being paid a fair salary.
The safety conditions of garment workers has been at the forefront of the public’s mind ever since a factory fire killed 300 workers last month in Pakistan. In Cambodia specifically, the Swedish program “Kalla Fakta” is reporting that with their current salary many Cambodian workers are barely surviving. The minimum wage per month for a garment worker in Cambodia is just $61 a month and that number represents 25% of a living wage.
The notions that H&M are fighting involve the living wage. H&M states that, “Our code has the same level of ambition when it comes to the wage issue as other companies’ Codes of Conduct; the legal minimum wage is the basic requirement, and with the ambition that one should be able to live off the salary. It is what you do that makes a difference, and when it comes to these issues we are in forefront”.
But even though a country has a minimum wage requirement, it does not mean that this wage is enough to live on without additional income. As previously stated, the $61 Cambodian workers make a month is only 25% of the living wage, which is the number necessary for a worker to meet basic needs.
The Clean Clothes Campaign is fighting for H&M to release a public statement in support of trade union demands that the minimum salary is raised to $131 and to build an action plan stating how they are going to pay this amount to the suppliers.
Cambodian garment workers have also caught the attention of Vice magazine. In their documentary series Fashion Week Internationale, they travel to Cambodia and witness the living conditions of a Cambodian garment worker who works at the H&M factories. It is revealed that the young girl who they interviewed was only 14 years old when she started working to help support her family. Watch the video above and skip to the 6:19 mark to get better acquainted with the living conditions of the average Cambodian garment worker. Then maybe you too will understand that the minimum wage is far below what it should be to meet basic needs.
If you liked the short documentary above, be sure to check out their episode on Seoul Fashion Week where they explore Korea’s vision of beauty and their culture’s obsession with plastic surgery.