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European Citizens´ Initiative Forum

Good Clothes, Fair Pay: We demand living wages for the people who make our clothes

Updated on: 17/01/2023

End Poverty wages in the fashion industry!

Fashion is one of the most unequal industries on the planet. Some of the richest people in the world have amassed their billionaire fortunes in fashion retail, spanning fast fashion to luxury. And yet, millions of people who make those clothes - mainly young women of colour - earn so little that they cannot meet their basic needs. Our European citizens’ initiative wants to put an end to that.

Garment workers across the globe skip meals, live in overcrowded homes, and lack medical care when they are sick. They are time-poor as well as money-poor. Gruelling work hours, sometimes more than 80 hours per week, are needed just to make ends meet.

Poverty wages in the fashion industry are not inevitable - the industry turns over an eye-watering €1.6 trillion Euros annually. Rather, poverty wages in fashion are an outcome of immense greed and exploitation. According to a paper published by Oxfam, in just four days, a top fashion CEO earns what a garment worker in Bangladesh will earn in her entire lifetime.

Minimum wages vs. living wages

Millions of people globally make our clothes. The vast majority earn so little that they are trapped in poverty. In an effort to attract and retain fashion orders, many garment production countries are reluctant to raise minimum wage rates - even when minimum wage rates are poverty wage rates.

What's more, due to recruitment fees, unpaid overtime, wage theft and other labour rights violations, many workers end up earning less than the legal minimum. This is particularly true for vulnerable and hidden workers in fashion supply chains, like homeworkers. In some production countries, statutory minimum wages do not even exist.

This is why we need legislation on living wages that relies on credible benchmarks for fair pay that unlocks a decent standard of living. Unlike a minimum wage, a living wage is a wage that allows workers to provide for themselves and their dependant’s basic needs - including food, housing, education and healthcare as well as some discretionary income for unexpected events. A living wage is earned in a standard workweek of no more than 48 hours and is earned before bonuses, allowances or overtime, and after taxes.

The citizens behind the Good Clothes, Fair Pay Initiative demand a system change. This group is made up of citizens from all over the EU with backgrounds spanning civil society, business, academia or government. Crucially, they are all united in their vision for garment worker justice and fair pay in fashion supply chains.

Poverty pay in fashion isn’t new. It’s an injustice that has been persistent - and deteriorating - for decades. As long as fashion supply chains remain unregulated, labour rights abuses for the people who make our clothes will persist. It’s unacceptable that the EU, which according to official data is the largest importer of clothes in the world, is not taking meaningful action to change things.

That’s why the Good Clothes, Fair Pay coalition came together to form a European citizens’ initiative to call on the EU Commission to introduce living wage legislation across the garment, textile and footwear sector. We are campaigning to mobilise 1 million signatures by July 2023 from EU citizens to push for legislation that requires companies to conduct living wage due diligence in their supply chains. So far, we have collected over 100,000 signatures. It’s a great start, but we have a long way yet to go.

As co-lead of the Good Clothes, Fair Pay signature campaign, I’m personally incredibly grateful to the European Citizens’ Initiative community for being so generous with advice and insights. Based on the conversations we have had with other ECI campaigns, past and present, one area of focus for us is dedicated mailings as we have heard how critical these are for reaching the 1 million+ threshold. As the world’s largest fashion activism movement, Fashion Revolution was lucky to already have a platform and engaged community to help us. However, since our largest community is UK based, and therefore unable to sign, dedicated mailings to EU citizens are really important in mobilising the signatures we need.

Living wages as an enabling right

Our legislative proposal, if passed, will allow millions of garment workers to lift themselves, their families and even entire communities out of poverty. Alleviating poverty is transformative in itself. But it’s incredibly inspiring to consider the wider positive impacts that living wages will have to the people who make our clothes. Living wages would alleviate time poverty that millions of garment workers currently face, meaning they are no longer forced to work very long hours just to make ends meet. Poverty is a root cause of child labour and gender-based violence, and so living wages will empower women to live safe and secure lives, and will increase the likelihood of children completing school.

What’s more, we know that paying the people who make our clothes living wages is one of the most effective ways to slow down the fashion industry and reduce overproduction and excessive waste that the fashion industry currently generates. Worker justice is climate justice.

Take action now!

If you are an EU citizen, please head to and sign your name. If you are not an EU citizen, please help us spread the word by sharing the campaign on social media and with your EU friends and family.


Visit the initiative website here:

Visit the initiative official page here:


Author of Blog Post - Ciara Barry


Ciara Barry

Ciara Barry is the Policy and Campaigns Manager at Fashion Revolution, the world’s largest fashion activism movement. She is co-leading the signature campaign for Good Clothes, Fair Pay, and also is an author and lead researcher for the annual Global Fashion Transparency Index. She is really passionate about gender equality and female empowerment in fashion supply chains, which are a major employer of women globally.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed on the ECI Forum reflect solely the point of view of their authors and can in no way be taken to reflect the position of the European Commission or of the European Union.
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