Living wages in Europe
“There are times when we have nothing to eat.”
Ukrainian garment worker
“I would give everything to be able to buy a toy car for my four children. I dream about it day and night, but I doubt that I will ever be able to make this dream come true.”
Turkish garment worker
Many brands produce in Eastern Europe, where wages can be lower than in Asia
What's the problem?
While many people are aware of the terrible working conditions and poverty wages that garment workers in Asia receive, they are in fact endemic in the whole global garment industry.
In response to increased media reports on and customer awareness of the Asian garment industry, some brands started advertising clothes and shoes with “Made in Europe” or “Made in EU” labels.
Often the European origin is simply equated with fairness and social responsibility –which is sadly a myth. There is a large gap between the legal minimum wages in Eastern/South-Eastern Europe and Turkey, and what a worker would actually need to provide for themselves and their family.
In Romania for example, with almost half a million people the biggest garment workforce in Europe, the average wage within regular working hours of interviewed workers is as low as 14 percent of a living wage.
Contrary to the law, the salary within regular working hours is very often below the statutory minimum wage – which itself only constitutes a mere 17 percent of a living wage.
According to workers, non-payment of the legal minimum wage for regular working hours is the norm.
Who needs to act?
Clean Clothes Campaign asks the EU to implement its „European Pillar of Social Rights”: An EU minimum wage policy is needed to ensure that all minimum wage setting in member states guaranties the implementation of the human right to a living wage as well as the European Pillar of Social Rights, Chapter II, 6 “wages”: “Workers have the right to fair wages that provide for a decent standard of living. (…) In-work poverty shall be prevented.” That is why before the European Parliament elections in May 2019 we asked candidates for the EU Parliament to sign this pledge (PDF).
Furthermore we are urging brands to pay a living wage to all workers in their supply chain, including in Central and Eastern Europe and to practice human rights die diligence. Governments of production countries must enforce labour laws, set a minimum wage level according to the real cost of living and support a system of free legal advice centres in areas where the clothing/shoe industry is concentrated. It is vital that the EU develops a minimum wage policy in accordance with the European Social Charter and international human rights charters.
What can you do?
Too many people around the world and even within the garment industry continue to believe that clothes made in Europe are necessarily made under fair conditions. Help us spread awareness about the poverty wages and dire working conditions in many production countries in Europe by sharing the resources on this page on social media using the hashtag #MadeInEurope.
We are regularly researching the situation in the field of working conditions and wages in European production countries.
Below you can find our country reports and our in-depth reports on the region. Some of these are also available in translation.
Eastern Europe's garment industry
Results: 5 Items
June 20, 2016
The realities of working in Europe’s shoe manufacturing peripheries in Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Poland, Romania and Slovakia; Often consumers in Western Europe believe that “Made in Europe” is a synonym for working conditions that are better than in production countries in Asia. This report from June 2016 shows that this is not always the case, and that problematic working conditions and very low wages in particular, are occurring endemically across global supply chains worldwide. In Europe’s lowwage countries, the clothing and shoe industry is notorious for poor pay and bad conditions.
June 20, 2016
Often consumers in Western Europe believe that “Made in Europe” is a synonym for working conditions that are better than in production countries in Asia. This report shows that this is not always the case, and that problematic working conditions and very low wages in particular, are occurring endemically across global supply chains worldwide. In Europe’s lowwage countries, the clothing and shoe industry is notorious for poor pay and bad conditions.
June 10, 2014
This is an in depth research report on the situation facing garment workers in 10 countries, busting the myth that "Made in Europe" means better wages and conditions. The report was made in 2014.
Results: 17 Items