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43-Cent-an-Hour Wage: A Very Modest Demand by Bangladesh's Women Garment Workers

June, 10 2010 Share

 

The highly respected local NGO, the Bangladesh Institute for Labor Studies, calculates that for a garment worker to live just one step past misery, she would have to earn at least 37 cents an hour, which amounts to $2.93 a day, $17.60 a week and $76.26 a month.

To share a tiny 8-by-10-foot room with four or five others costs the garment workers 800 taka ($11.50) per month each to “rent one bed.”  There is no indoor shower or plumbing.  Workers wash outdoors using a hand pump.  These cost estimates are based on surveys of garment workers in the Narayanganj neighborhood on the outskirts of Dhaka.

Workers can spend at most $1.18 a day ($36.12 a month) for food.  Breakfast is rice and mashed potatoes or lentils.  Lunch is rice and fried potatoes.  Dinner is rice and lentils.  Occasionally, the workers can “splurge” and eat an egg or a small piece of local fish.

The workers use rickshaws and buses to get to work.

On average, they can spend just $8.63 a month ($103.60 a year) for medical care.  This is all they can spend for doctor visits and medicines.  If a garment worker has a small child, it would cost $5.75 to send her to a local public school for grades 1 through 4.  This covers books, school supplies and a small lunch.

 

So the Bangladeshi garment workers demands for a 43-cent-an-hour wages are incredibly modest.  But if they are won, they will allow over two million women garment workers to climb out of misery.

One would think it would be embarrassing for Wal-Mart and other multinationals to fight against such a modest wage increase, to just 43 cents an hour.

Wal-Mart earns a profit of $39.3 million a day, 365 days a year, which comes to $1,637,500 an hour, 24 hours a day.