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Indian garment workers earn 11 paisa an hour: Research

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Bengaluru, Feb 4: Research by the University of California found that women and girls from the most marginalised communities toiled for as little as 15 cents (11pisa) an hour in homes across India. Child labour and forced labour were rife and wages regularly suppressed.

Indian garment workers 11 paisa an hour: Stady by modern slavery expert

"Tainted Garments: The Exploitation of Women and Girls in India's Home-based Garment Sector," by modern slavery expert Siddharth Kara offers investigation yet into the conditions of work for women and girls in India's home- based garment sector.

Approximately 85 percent of the home-based garment workers documented for the report work exclusively in supply chains of major apparel brands in the United States and European Union.

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The most important findings of Kara's research are:

• Home-based garment workers in India consist almost entirely of women and girls from historically oppressed ethnic communities who earn approximately $0.15 per hour.
• 99.3 per cent of the workers were either Muslims or belonged to a heavily subordinated community, called a "Scheduled Caste."
• 99.2 per cent work in conditions of forced labor under Indian law, which means they do not receive the state-stipulated minimum wage.
• 95.5 per cent of workers were female.
• Almost none of the workers received any sort of medical care when injured at work.
• None of the workers belonged to a trade union and none had a written work agreement.

The Indian garment industry is the second largest manufacturer and exporter in the world after China. The sector directly employs 12.9 million in formal factory settings, and it indirectly employs millions more in informal, home-based settings. The primary destinations of India's garment exports are the United States and the European Union, which receive almost half (47%) of the country's total apparel exports.

Scores of major brands and boutique retailers source garments from the areas documented in the study. Many companies do a reasonable job at promoting decent conditions in the first-tier factories of their suppliers in India; however, they largely have inadequate visibility into sub-contracted work from their suppliers to home-based workers. Given the size and brand recognition of some of the companies that source garments from India, they are best positioned to address the findings of this report on a meaningful scale and thereby substantially improve conditions for home-based garment workers in India.

"The aim of this investigation is to provide insights into the lives of these workers in the hope that governments, companies, and nonprofits will be able to coordinate on solutions to address the exploitation we documented," said Kara.

"We welcome the report by Mr. Kara, which sheds light on informal workers-predominately women and girls-in the home-based garment sector in India, who face a range of abuses," said GoodWeave CEO Nina Smith. "Bringing greater visibility and rights to them re-defines the traditional concept of global apparel supply chain responsibility and requires action by governments, companies, NGOs, and consumers."

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