We don’t live to work, we work to live. This saying sums up a lot of what we deal with in this edition of the W-Connect newsletter, which focuses on a decent living income. Or living wage. Or just or fair wages. No matter the term, no matter the way of calculating it or which formula you apply, I think we should all agree, we work to live and not the other way around. Unfortunately, it is a far stretch from today’s reality. Many work very hard and struggle to simply survive, not even to live decently. When it becomes a luxury not only to buy a pair of decent shoes, but to buy food or shelter. And what about spending time with your family, to help your children with homework, or take them for ice-cream. Many are only surviving, getting the minimum out of life.
Legally set, the minimum wages are often too low in Asia to live decently. In 19 out of the 26 states in India, minimum wages (of which there are 1.200, as they differ per sector, per state and between urban and rural areas) are even below the poverty line, let alone any decent living income, as was researched by the WSM partners.
This edition also looks closer at the garment sector, which can be key for the struggle for decent living incomes. It employs 25 million workers in more than 100 countries and in 2013, apparel trade amounted to 460.27 billion dollars, with more than 60% of it originating from 10 Asian countries. Out of the top ten world garment exporters in 2013, seven were from Asia. In the region, China, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Cambodia have covered the bulk of garment production in the last decade. Bangladesh became the second largest producer of garments after China because of its lowest wages for 4 million workers. A race to the bottom which should become a climb to the top, by guaranteeing decent living incomes to all workers, in Asia as around the world. This was already understood in 1948, as article 23 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and for his family an existence worthy of human dignity.”
How much longer till this becomes reality?
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