The horrific collapse of the Rana Plaza factory building in Dhaka, Bangladesh—and a subsequent incident at a different garment plant in the country—have brought renewed attention to the grim labor practices that make cheap fashion possible. Here, what clothing tags would say if they included information about the conditions in the factories where they were made, and where leading exporters to the United States fall on a scale of opprobrium.
Mexico $690.57 usd / mo1
The Mexican apparel industry has rebounded from globalization-induced doldrums by focusing on higher-value products that require skilled, better-paid workers and higher-tech factories.
honduras $442.16 usd / mo
Apparel jobs here can pay about 20 percent more than those in other low-skilled industries, thanks to human rights treaties and pressure from image-conscious clothing manufacturers.
china $325.30 usd / mo
As a strong economy increases labor costs—wages for factory workers jumped 40 percent in 2010, by one account, and continue to rise—the country is falling out of favor with clothing companies.
vietnam $272.68 usd / mo
Vietnam has attracted apparel retailers more through advanced technology than through rock-bottom labor costs, and it gets relatively good marks from workers-rights groups. But recent reports show more problems with overtime, safety, and health standards than previously thought.
BANGLADESH $136.35 usd / mO
Bangladesh pays the lowest rates in the world to workers crammed in buildings largely unpoliced by local officials, many of whom themselves own stakes in the factories. As a strong economy increases labor costs—wages for factory workers jumped 40 percent in 2010, by one account, and continue to rise—the country is falling out of favor with clothing companies.
CAMBODIA $184.08 usd / mo
Despite a U.N. monitoring program, there have been several mass faintings in Cambodian factories over the past few years; overheating and noxious fumes are possible culprits.
The wage figures used here reflect the prevailing monthly pay for a full-time sewing-machine operator in a country’s largest export-oriented garment producing center, adjusted to reflect local cost of living. The data comes from a joint study by the Center for American Progress and the Workers Rights Consortium.
Lydia DePillis is a staff writer at The New Republic.