Homeworkers are the Bottom of the Supply Chain Iceberg

Homeworkers can be considered the lowest tier of the iceberg model to draw attention to the nature of their work and their situation. Homeworkers are individuals who work from their homes and are often forgotten as they are near impossible to track and are contract free. 

These are by far the most vulnerable workers as conditions for homeworkers are found to be worse than in factories. Often times their work is considered too dangerous to be done in factories and is subcontracted to them so factories can continue to comply with health and safety requirements, with hazards then affecting both workers’ families and themselves.

Additionally, homeworkers are most vulnerable to payment discrimination. This is because the contractors exert a lot of control over the workers. At peak times they are overworked, often having to finish more pieces than possible in the allotted time. Therefore, many times children will be responsible to skip school to help complete orders. If the order is not completed in time homeworkers are penalized monetarily but also will likely receive fewer orders from the contractor next time resulting and less pay. 

It is difficult to believe anyone would subject themselves to these types of clear social violations. But the need for money and ‘flexible’ hours continue to entice workers to let others take advantage of their right to an adequate standard of living as well as physical and mental well-being. 

If workers continue to take these jobs to support their families it is our responsibility not to ignore them. As an industry fashion companies need to find a new way to incorporate these workers into the system to be sure they receive the same human dignity we ask of factories. Incorporating them does not mean adding more jobs in factories since this is not what they want. But it does call for new strategic action. 

To create change companies need to be more accountable for their piece count, ensuring what they ask a factory to do can physically be done in the allotted time. This is particular important around holidays like Chinese New Years where factories close and much of the work is out sourced. It is not enough to accept that the work will get done, it must be done ethically.  

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