Why is a LIVING WAGE important?
Living wage by definition should be able to support a basic living standard. It is very possible to receive a "minimum wage" and not have adequate wage to live in an area. It is recognized as a human right by the ILO.
1. There are clear "business benefits" from the employer's perspective including reduced staff turnover, reduced absenteeism, reputational benefits, recruitment and retention of staff, worker morale, and productivity. You can read more from case studies in the UK (one of the highest proportions of employees in low paid work from advanced economies). A fair wage is not a "cost variable" to adjust without simple implications.
2. Women in the garment industry are many times the primary person providing for the family. Even working overtime at factories do not cover the minimum required to provide a family with shelter, food, and education. Too often these workers do not have the power to negotiate. Trade unions vary country by country, and brands can easily put pressure on factory owners for or against unionization.
3. Factories, brands, and consumers should ALL take responsibility for fairer wages. This is not a finger pointing game nor a race to the bottom issue where we always look for the cheapest option possible. Suppliers should make it a priority to protect the well being of its workers, and brands should improve purchasing practices and pay its suppliers the right margins. Consumers (you and me) should support brands that pay fair wages to workers.