U.K. group pushes for flat Asian wage

Labour Behind the Label's cartoon promoting the Asia floor wage campaign.

TEXT OF STORY

Steve Chiotakis: A British workers rights group is calling for a flat minimum wage across Asia. The demand caps years of study by the group Labour Behind the Label. Researchers found that garment workers in Asia -- who produce the clothes we buy -- aren't making near enough to live. Here's Marketplace's Jeremy Hobson.


Jeremy Hobson: Labour Behind the Label has come up with a floor wage that is twice what Indonesian laborers get. It's three times the minimum rate of pay in Sri Lanka and more than 6 times the wage in Bangladesh.

Anna McMullen wrote the report. She says the countries may be different, but the best protection for workers is a minimum wage that crosses borders.

ANNA MCMULLEN: There's a race to the bottom between different countries to set lower minimum wages in order to attract foreign business. So the minimum wages that are set are well below what is necessary for a decent quality of life.

The wage was calculated based on the cost of food, water, shelter, health care and education.

Mark Brenner is the director of Labor Notes. He says big Western companies often dodge the issue of how much the people who make their products are paid.

MARK BRENNER: Big companies like Wal-Mart have always thrown up their hands and said "Hey, we can't do this. We don't actually hire these workers. It's our suppliers."

Brenner says a single floor wage could force Western companies to take responsibility. They'll know what a living wage is and they'll come under pressure to abide by the same rules. He says if the cost is passed on to consumers, it'll probably only add up to a buck or two on a $50 pair of shoes.

I'm Jeremy Hobson for Marketplace.

About the author

Jeremy Hobson is host of Marketplace Morning Report, where he looks at business news from a global perspective to prepare listeners for the day ahead.

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