Women face discrimination in thriving garment and footwear factories, study shows

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times June 28, 2016 15:24

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  • "Trapped by poverty and meeting household requirements, these women put up with difficult working conditions to make ends meet. The factories' owners are okay with the Albanian government as long as they pay minimum wages," experts say

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fasonTIRANA, June 28 – Workers in Albania’s thriving garment and footwear factories face poor working conditions, overload and don’t even manage to get the minimum wage of Euro 160, which is the region’s lowest, a study has found.

The findings show the garment and footwear industry, one of the top private sector employers and the main exporting industry mainly relying on cheap labor costs, is having little impact on the economic empowerment of women who account for the overwhelming 90 percent of workforce in this industry.

A survey conducted by the Gender Alliance for Development Center showed half of the employees don’t manage to get the minimum wage of 22,000 lek (Euro 160) at the end of the month because of penalties and the high quota of work they face despite having to work even Saturdays as a normal working day with no bonuses for 48 hours a week in violation of the country’s Labour Code.

Mirela Arqimandriti, the Gender Alliance’s director, says women are forced to accept these jobs because of poverty and few other opportunities.

“Women in the garment and footwear industry usually work in warehouses, too close to each other in a polluted and noisy environment. The wages they receive rarely exceed the minimum wage standard set three years ago by the Albanian government although women themselves admit work is very hard and the daily quota of work they have to meet is high,” Arqimandriti says.

“Trapped by poverty and meeting household requirements, these women put up with difficult working conditions to make ends meet. The factories’ owners are okay with the Albanian government as long as they pay minimum wages,” she adds.

The study also shows high level of informality in the sector which officially employs about 70,000 people, but the real number is estimated at more than 100,000.

More than 900 companies operate in the garment and footwear sector, whose annual turnover is estimated at 500 million euros accounting for 40 percent of the country’s total exports.

The sector is mostly involved in cut-make-trim production but there are also a few emerging Made in Albania brands.

A strong double-digit growth in garment and footwear sales is keeping Albania’s poorly diversified exports away from a sharp decline following a slump in international oil and mineral prices during the past year.

The garment and footwear industry, locally known as façon, increased its exports by an annual 24 percent to 35 billion lek (€253 million) in the first four months of this year on improved demand from Italy, the destination of the overwhelming majority of 90 percent of exports of this kind.

The International Monetary Fund has recently warned the garment and footwear sector, Albania’s top exporting industry could receive a blow from tougher competition and lower transport costs from new Asian frontier markets.

“Albania could be facing headwinds from the growth slowdown in Europe and the decline in transport costs, which places it in competition with countries that have large textile sectors with lower labor costs such as Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Vietnam,” says the IMF.

The country’s oil and mining industry have been facing tough times during the past couple of years, with some of the key operators changing hands due to losses from the sharp decline in commodity prices.

Albania’s exports heavily rely on garment and footwear and oil and minerals, accounting for two-thirds of total exports.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times June 28, 2016 15:24