The race to the bottom continues in Africa

H&M is strongly implicated in the investigation by the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) into the garment industry in Ethiopia that reveals “a yawning gap between the brands’ ethical pretentions and the workplace reality for the people sewing their clothes”. H&M has been making claims about amazing progress toward a living wage while sourcing from Ethiopia where workers’ wages “make Bangladesh look like Luxembourg”.

The WRC, an independent labor rights monitor based in Washington, DC, reviewed workers’ pay slips at four factories producing for H&M, PVH and other Western brands. Wages were as low as 12 cents an hour, with an average of 18 cents an hour.

As Scott Nova and Penelope Kyritsis from WRC summarized, “Workers … reported facing a raft of abuses: draconian wage deductions, with workers losing several days’ pay for such offenses as drinking water at their work stations; degrading verbal abuse from supervisors; pregnancy discrimination, with hiring managers at one factory manually probing the bellies of job applicants; and forced and unpaid overtime, among other rights violations.”

Read more in their op-ed: “Doing Well By Doing Good? Ask Ethiopia's Garment Workers”

You can also download the full report: “Ethiopia is a North Star: Grim conditions and miserable wages guide apparel brands in their race to the bottom”