Issued by the Catholic Center for Studies and Media - Jordan. Editor-in-chief Fr. Rif'at Bader - موقع أبونا

Published on Sunday, 5 September 2021
Church can provide healing touch to Asia's garment workers

Ben JosephBen Joseph/ :

The labor-intensive garment industry in Asia has fallen on hard times after being let down by international brands and retailers, giving a chance to the Catholic Church to side with more than 65 million poor workers.


Pope Francis has been trying to develop a “church of the poor for the poor” during his pontificate, which started seven years ago.


The Asian Church should come forward with its inclusiveness and compassion for poor garment workers who have been let down by respective governments and global fashion retailers for whom they toil.


The relationship between global fashion brands and those who make their clothes has long suffered from a power imbalance. These firms do not just buy garments but are in control of every step of the production process.


Garment workers in low-wage countries like Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia and Vietnam have been pushed to the wall during the pandemic while international brands and retailers are minting money.


Clothing workers accumulated US$11.85 billion in unpaid wages and severance payments from March 2020 to March 2021, according to the International Labor Organization (ILO).


“It’s a figure that represents unimaginable and often irreparable human pain,” Khalid Mahmood from the Labor Education Foundation in Pakistan was quoted as saying by pontifical news agency Fides.


Complaints have been filed in India and Sri Lanka, and are pending in Indonesia and Pakistan, against multinational fashion brands.


In India, the Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA) and labor unions have filed a legal complaint against H&M in the southern city of Bengaluru for alleged labor abuses in 2020.


Complaints have been filed with the labor commissioner in Sri Lanka against Levi Strauss, Columbia Sporting Company, Asics, DKNY and Tommy Hilfiger, reported the UK-based Guardian newspaper last month.