There is a vast mismatch between the earnings in the garment industri and the wages paid out to the workers who produce the garments. Whilst the fashion brands generates huge profits from the garments, millions of workers are still subject to wages so low that they simply cannot live on it. 

Af Klaus Melvin Jensen


The garment industry is a major employer across the world. 15 million workers in Asia and 4 million workers in Europe produce the overwhelming majority of garments sold worldwide.  Most of the garment production is outsourced from Asia. However, there are still strong garment production countries among EU’s members and acceding countries, such as Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria and the Baltic countries.

European fashion brands like H&M, Zara, adidas, Hugo Boss, and Dolce & Gabbana are making millions in profits every year. This booming industry has come to rely on, and exploit, the cheap labour of garment workers whose wages fall far short of what is necessary to make a decent living. In the particular EU member countries and the acceding countries the wage of app. 2,5 million garment workers is even far below the EU poverty threshold.

In 2012 the EU clothing and textile import amounted to 90 billion Euros.


Leveløn i tekstilindustrien
Where does the money go? The wage of the workers is generally as little as 0.5 to 3% of the price that the European consumers pay in the stores. Figure shows the typical pricing of a t-shirt produced in Asia and sold in the EU.


The low wages force workers in Asia and their families to live in poor housing without water and sewerage. In Europe workers live without heating. Workers suffer from inadequate nutrition, are forced to work long hours to earn overtime or bonuses and cannot risk taking annual leave or sick leave. At the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh in April 2013 fear of losing income was one of the reasons for workers to return to the factory after cracks were discovered in the building.

The outsourcing of garment production outside and within Europe is social dumping on a global scale.


A wage garment workers can live from is a human right

A living wage for the worker and her family is established as a human right in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as well as in these documents: Constitution of the ILO, 1919, Preamble of the Charter Declaration of Philadelphia, International Labour Conference 1944, ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization, 2008 and finally in the European Social Charter.

The Community Charter of Fundamental Social Rights for Workers (EU Social Charter) adopted by the EU in 1989 contains the principle that every job must be paid a fair remuneration. According to the situation in each country workers should therefore be guaranteed a fair remuneration for work. The concept of fair remuneration for work is understood by the EU Social Charter to mean remuneration for work that is sufficient for a decent standard of living for workers. The 1961 "European Social Charter" of the European Council also contains provision in article 4 for "The right to a fair remuneration sufficient for a decent standard of living". Similar provisions concerning "fair remuneration" are also to be found in the national constitutions of many EU member countries.

The Lisbon Treaty, Article 3.5, speak of the European Union’s relations with the world, referring to EU obligations to contribute to: “... the sustainable development of the Earth, solidarity and mutual respect among peoples, free and fair trade, eradication of poverty and the protection of human rights.”

Also the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights define what companies and governments should do to avoid and address possible negative human rights impacts by business. It is part of business’ due diligence to avoid human rights violations in their supply chains. The EU has pledged to encourage and contribute to implementation of the UN Guiding Principles. Many EU Member States are developing national plans on business and human rights.

Finally the EU itself set its goals in these documents: "A Decent Life for All: Ending poverty and giving the world a better future", "A New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty and Transform economies through Sustainable Development" of the High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda: “The first priority must be to create opportunities for good and decent jobs and secure livelihoods, so as to make growth inclusive and ensure that it reduces poverty and inequality.“


What is a Living Wage?

A living wage means that the wage a worker earns in a standard working week (never exceeding 48 hours) is enough to provide for them and their family's basic needs - including housing, education, and healthcare as well as some discretionary income for unexpected expenses.


Wages and living wages in Asia


Legal minimum wage in local currency *

Legal minimum wage in Euro **

Living Wage in local currency ***

Legal minimum wage as % of living wage


5,300 taka

50 Euro

25,687 taka

21 %

Cambodia ***’

399,503 riel

73 Euro

1,582,668 riel

25 %


1,270 yuan

150 Euro

3,132 yuan

41 %

India ***’

4,370 rupees

53 Euro

16,240 rupees

27 %

Indonesia ***’

1,356,780 rupiah

87 Euro

4,048,226 rupiah

34 %


885 ringgit

197 Euro

1,566 ringgit

57 %

Sri Lanka ***’

8,890 rupees

50 Euro

46,168 rupees

19 %

* In countries where minimum wages vary by region, an average has been taken across each country’s main production regions or
provinces to represent the national minimum wage per month.
** Exchange rate calculated on 28.03.2014
*** Living Wage figures are calculated by Asia Floor Wage Alliance – a group of Asian trade unions & labour groups who have calculated a living wage formula for Asia. The Asia Floor Wage Alliance carries out regular food basket research in the region to calculate new Asia Floor Wage figures.
***’ Countries where there is a national process to support an Asia Floor Wage setting mechanism.
Wages in Eastern Europe



Legal minimum wage in Euro *

60% of average national wage

Estimated minimum living wage **

Legal minimum wage as % of living wage

BiH (Republika Srpska)

189 Euro

260 Euro

1,022 Euro

25 %


139 Euro

245 Euro

767 Euro

14 %


308 Euro

435 Euro

862 Euro

37 %



196 Euro

518 Euro

10 %


111 Euro

208 Euro

790 Euro

14 %


71 Euro

122 Euro

378 Euro

19 %


133 Euro

218 Euro

710 Euro

19 %


292 Euro

406 Euro

1,360 Euro

21 %


252 Euro

401 Euro

890 Euro

28 %


80 Euro

167 Euro

553 Euro

14 %

* Exchange rate in all tables as of 01.02.2014,; legal minimum wage as of 1st May 2013
** Based on interviews with garment workers in the countries. From Clean Clothes Campaign “Global East” report, to be published on June 10th. 2014.  




Mange skandinaviske tøjfirmaer bidrager direkte eller indirekte til grov underbetaling af arbejderne i lavtlønslande. Firmaerne kræver at de nationale mindstelønsstandarder skal gælde i deres leverandørkæder. Mindstelønnen i mange lande er lavere end FNs fattigdomsgrænse på 2 dollar om dagen.

Af Framtiden i Våre Hender


Resumé af rapporten "Syr klær for lommerusk"
- download hele rapporten nederst på denne side


Mindsteløn kan man ikke leve af

I flere lande som Bangladesh og Indien udgør mindstelønningerne kun omkring 30% af en leveløn. I Bangladesh f.eks. er mindstelønnen kr. 155 om måneden, mens levelønnen er kr. 448. En undersøgelse af 25 skandinaviske tøjfirmaer viser, at meget få virksomheder har indset, at mindstelønningerne i de fleste produktionslande ikke er høje nok til at arbejderne kan leve et normalt og værdigt liv.

Nogle af firmaerne kræver kun at leverandørerne skal betale en mindsteløn til arbejderne. I en femtedel af verdens lande er mindstelønnen under fattigdomsgrænsen på 2 dollars om dagen. Det viser den nye rapport ”Syr klær for lommerusk” fra Clean Clothes Campaign i Norge.
Den største del af tøjproduktionen i dag finder sted i lande, hvor det sociale sikkerhedsnet er svagt eller ikke eksisterende. Fattige mennesker lever et usikkert liv; hvis familieforsørgeren bliver syg, kan det forværre hele familien situation uopretteligt. I tekstilindustrien udgør lønomkostningerne i produktionen mellem 0.5 – 3% af de totale omkostninger. Alligevel presses priserne for varerne ned og arbejdernes løn bliver derefter.

Denne rapport belyser hvorfor det er nødvendigt at hæve arbejdernes lønninger og hvordan det kan lade sig gøre. Tøjfirmaerne kan ikke blive ved med at undergrave tekstilarbejdernes vigtigste vej til et værdigt liv, retten til at organisere sig i fagforeninger og retten til en løn, man kan leve af: en leveløn.


Tøjfirmaer skal stille krav til leverandørerne om leveløn til tekstilarbejderne

Den svenske tøjgigant Hennes & Mauritz, norske Voice AS og danske Bestseller stiller kun krav om mindsteløn i deres code of conducts og er tre af de virksomheder, der får den dårligste vurdering i undersøgelsen. De svenske firmaer KappAhl, Gina Tricot og Lindex har heller ikke tydelige lønkrav i forhold til leverandørerne, de nøjes med at ”opfordre” underleverandørerne til at betale højere lønninger.
To firmaer fremhæves i rapporten. Det norske Stormberg, der sælger fritidstøj og det svenske firma Dem collective har både angivet leveløn som et krav i deres code of conduct´s og desuden implementeret kravet hos deres leverandører.

Det viser at det gennem engagement, åben dialog og tæt opfølgning er muligt at forhøje lønningerne i leverandørkæden, så lønnen kan dække basale behov og arbejderne og deres familier kan leve et værdigt liv.

I rapporten anbefales tøjfirmaerne bl.a. at stille krav om leveløn i deres Code of conduct og at samarbejde med andre virksomheder og fagforeninger om implementering. Desuden bør de ændre deres indkøbsstrategier.




Syr klær for lommerusk, Framtiden i Våre Hender 2009, (PDF 26 sider)






Beklædningsindustrien beskæftiger i Danmark 10.000 og på verdensplan 75 millioner mennesker. Men det glemmes belejligt at der sidder mennesker som du og jeg og producere tøjet under umenneskelige forhold. Det er moderne slaveri.

Hvis vi mødte disse mennesker ansigt til ansigt, ville vi aldrig kunne bære, at det er sandheden. Mange lukker øjnene og ørerne og undgår at tænke på hvor stor ødelæggelsesgrad, man har med det, man gør. Som designer ved du, hvor lang tid det tager at lave en kollektion. Virksomheder har et ansvar. Vi har alle et ansvar.

Slaveri er aldrig moderne -

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