Maid in India - young Dalit women continue to suffer exploitative conditions in India’s garment industry

Maid in India - young Dalit women continue to suffer exploitative conditions in India’s garment industry

Working conditions of Dalit garment workers

In Tamil Nadu young women workers continue to suffer exploitative working conditions while making garments for Western brands. Thousands of girls work under recruitment and employment schemes that amount to bonded labour. In this report the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO) and the India Committee of the Netherlands (ICN) present their findings on the labour conditions in the South Indian garment and textile industry.

The document features case studies of four large Tamil Nadu–based garment manufacturers that produce for the European and US markets. The majority of the workers are Dalit (outcaste) girls younger then 18 hailing from poor families who are lured with promises of a decent wage,comfortable accommodation and, in some cases a sum of money upon completion of the contract that may be used for their dowry. A large number of these labour migrants live in (factory) hostels where they have little to none interaction with the outside world, let alone trade unions or labour advocates. Workers are expected to work long hours of forced overtime under unhealthy conditions. Trade unions are weak and face enormous opposition. Governmentenforcement of labour law is not robust. Garment brands and retailers have made promises to abolish labour abuses at their suppliers.

Some companies are part of corporate compliance or multi-stakeholder initiatives; others are developing their own approach, including in-depth investigations and social audits at theirsuppliers. These efforts have had some positive effects, especially in the garment-producing units that supply directly to Western buyers. Still, SOMO and ICN conclude that major violations continue, especially in the spinning units were yarn is produced.

This report aims to provide relevant stakeholders – manufacturers, brands, multi-stakeholders initiatives, governments and others – with input to enable and motivate further action. On the basis of the field research and analysis of promises and actual steps taken by the industry and other relevant actors, conclusions are formulated, as well as practical recommendations.