Major survey highlights chronically low wages in Ethiopia

Mark Lane | 12th March 2019

ADDIS ABABA – A survey of more than 1,000 textile and apparel workers across 52 factories in three regions of Ethiopia found 65 per cent earn less than US$70 a month while 8 per cent earn less than US$35 a month. The results suggest that more than 90 per cent of the workers earn less than a calculated living wage for the country which research has put at US$144.

The survey was carried out by in partnership with the Confederation of Ethiopian Trade Unions (CETU) and various universities. Between them, they managed to extract highly detailed information, despite encountering expected resistance from factory owners.
Ethiopia does not have a system of minimum wages, with wages in the textile and apparel sector determined by factory owners alone.

The survey also addressed other issues, including compliance with relevant labour laws and international working standards. It found that the issues with the highest compliance rates among factories were the payment of overtime (99 per cent compliant), no child labour (98 per cent compliant), and payment of maternity leave (97 per cent compliant).

Issues with the lowest compliance rates were that the employer did not discriminate employees based on trade union membership (45 per cent compliant), the employer trains workers on health and safety issues (42 per cent compliant) and the employer acknowledged a right to strike (23 per cent compliant).

This final point is an interesting one given that thousands of workers in the Hawassa Industrial Park (HIP) – Ethiopia’s flagship textile and apparel industrial park which is home to much of PVH’s garment production in the country – stopped work on 7 March 2019 due to a lack of response to their problems with their low salaries, their unsafe working environment, and being exposed to sexual abuses and abduction.

The workers complained their wages are far below their expenses. One worker said she had been working in HIP for the past two years and her salary was still US$26.18 per month, which did not cover her home rental.

Apparel Insider understands this strike is ongoing.

Much more on this story in our next printed magazine.