Cambodian textile workers who supply UK clothing stores ‘starving’ and suffering 'mass faintings'

 

Phnom Penh

By the time London Fashion Week comes to a close, 58 high-end designers will have shown their collections. Rail-thin models will have walked the runways. Debate will have raged over size zero.

In Cambodia, meanwhile, garment workers stitching clothes that supply the UK high street are malnourished to the point of collapse.

According to a study released on Monday, a third of Cambodian garment workers producing clothes sold in the UK by global brands, including clothing giant H&M, are not getting enough food. Some 25 per cent are so underweight they would be classified as anorexic were they diagnosed in the UK.

The findings of the report by worker rights group Labour Behind the Label follow a spate of mass faintings over recent years, when groups of up to 300 at a time have passed out.

Researchers attributed the incidents to the “serious” malnourishment of the industry’s 400,000-plus mostly female employees who work for a monthly minimum wage of around $80 (£50) – too little to fund an adequate diet, the researchers say.

One of the workers interviewed for the study said she and fellow workers at a factory near the capital, Phnom Penh, were “constantly on the point of fainting”. “We are tired and we are weak. It takes only a few small things to tip us over the edge,” she said.

According to the report, Shop ‘Til They Drop, employees consumed around half the calories needed for garment factory work, while protein intake fell well below half the basic human need. The recommended 3,000-calorie diet alone would cost some $75 (£47) a month, leaving just $5 (£3) for all other costs.

Although some factories offer allowances for food, these are often spent on other essential expenses, which for many include sending a share home to family members, the report states.

One of its suggestions is that, in addition to increasing wages, factories should provide free, nutritious lunches. But Ken Loo, the general secretary of the Garment Manufacturers’ Association of Cambodia (GMAC), said that was not the employer’s job. “Are you really asking if the workers are malnourished because they don’t have enough money for food to eat when half of them have mobile phones?” he said.

Representatives of H&M did not immediately respond to requests for comment but a statement from the report’s authors said they and other brands had met with union representatives and NGOs in Cambodia to discuss both the findings and canteen provision.

Suggested Topics
News
peoplePaper attempts to defend itself
Voices
voicesWe desperately need men to be feminists too
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

    £16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

    KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

    £100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

    IT Systems Manager

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

    IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

    £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

    Day In a Page

    Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

    Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

    ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
    Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

    Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

    Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
    'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

    The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

    Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
    BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

    BBC Television Centre

    A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum