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Upholding the Rights of Fashion Industry Workers

Fashion Industry Workers
Shopping retail can be overwhelming due to the options available. When making shopping choices, many might forget about fashion industry workers. Many fashion industry workers across the world face exploitation and violations of human rights, which often pushes them into poverty. Several organizations aim to uphold the rights of fashion industry workers through fair pay, safe working environments, reasonable working hours and more. 

The Fashion Industry

The fashion industry had a 2019 estimate of $2.5 trillion global value. Yet, many fashion brands exploit and take advantage of fashion industry workers in developing nations.

The “minimum wage” in many manufacturing counties only covers a fraction of living costs. Furthermore, many workers do not receive the inadequate “minimum wage.” Workers have to endure 14 to 16 hours of work seven days a week. Additionally, the actual workplace conditions are unsafe and hazardous. It is common for there to be toxic matter present, fiber dust in the air, no ventilation and unsafe building structure.

These circumstances are not humane and prevent workers from breaking cycles of poverty. In 2018, the majority of the 75 million garment workers are women ages 18 to 35 who already face disadvantages due to gender inequality.


Global trade can help developing countries improve their economic growth. In 2017, estimates determined that the fast fashion industry would grow by 5.91% and reach $1,652.73 billion by 2020. This billion-dollar industry could make a difference in low-income countries since there is such value for the market. If companies begin to invest in second-hand items and create sustainable clothing designs by 2030, they could make a $192 billion profit. This would impact the global economy and potentially allow fashion industry workers in low-income countries to boost their economies.

Consuming Thoughtfully

Many know the fashion industry for its exploitation of workers through unsafe labor and low wages. One solution to this problem is through purchasing from companies that want to work with people who have historically experienced exploitation by unfair work practices in the fashion industry.

Pura Utz

This fair trade business has an emphasis on empowering women and breaking the cycle of poverty by employing women in Guatemala to create handmade jewelry in safe conditions and with a livable wage. The directors of Pura Utz created the business in 2018 and now have a staff of more than 50 women in Guatemala working full-time. They wanted to empower their employees and pay the women four times the market standard in Guatemala and the women receive bonuses twice a year. The directors also created safe standards by allowing flexibility in how much the women want to work since some employees might have other responsibilities. Furthermore, they can all work from home, which is especially helpful for women with domestic responsibilities. The work week is Monday to Friday from 9 am to 5 pm. Pura Utz adopted a business strategy that upholds the rights of fashion industry workers.

Change Starts Now

This company works to create items for the fashion industry while still upholding the rights of fashion industry workers. Through these efforts, the workers receive the empowerment to break cycles of poverty. The workers are able to work with rights and in conditions that are safe while receiving an opportunity to rise out of poverty through fair wages and fair working policies.

Ann Shick
Photo: Flickr