In 2018 the England football team came under fire after the Telegraph published a story of Bangladeshi garment workers being paid 21 pence to sew England’s 160 pounds World Cup kit. Fast forward to Qatar, where a new jersey design and new factory have similarly adopted the practise of low paid factory workers, this time in association with Nike.
Nike is the producer of England’s World Cup kit, with the Daily Mirror tracing the 100 percent polyester items to the Hi-Tech Apparel factory in Bangkok. Here workers are paid an average of 1 pound per hour with a daily wage of 353 baht, approximately 8.30 pounds.
Retail prices for the jerseys are 115 pounds at the high end, which includes personalisation, but other official World Cup t-shirts can be bought for 75 pounds, and junior sized jerseys for 60 pounds. The Daily Mirror estimated fabric and sewing costs to be 7.30 pounds and 3 pounds respectively, with the factory earning approximately 1.50 per sewn item. Polyester, one of the fashion industry’s cheapest and least sustainable fabrics, is a fast fashion staple, with more than two-thirds of all textile fibers synthetic, according to a 2021 study of the polyester clothing value chain.
Outsourcing factories to Asia
Nike, like many high street apparel giants, outsources the majority of its production to factories in Asia due to their low cost when compared to North American and European manufacturing. Lower-cost sewing allows for higher profit margins. While there is no evidence suggesting the Thai garment workers face sub-standard working conditions, Nike has previously been called out for sourcing from factories where workers have not been sufficiently paid.
In February the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) said over 1,000 factories producing garments for Nike, Zara, Gap, Abercrombie and many other brands, collectively failed to pay garment workers 60 million dollars over the course of the pandemic, the largest wage theft in global garment manufacturing history.