每日跟讀#495: Inside Italy’s Shadow Economy
In a second-floor apartment in the southern Italian town of Santeramo in Colle, a middle-aged woman sat in a black-padded chair this summer, hard at work at her kitchen table. She carefully stitched a sophisticated woolen coat, the sort of style that will sell for 800 to 2,000 euros ($935 to $2,340) when it arrives in stores this month as part of the fall and winter collection of MaxMara, the Italian luxury fashion brand.
But the woman, who asked not to be named for fear that she could lose her livelihood, receives just 1 euro from the factory that employs her for each meter of fabric she completes.
“It takes me about one hour to sew one meter, so about four to five hours to complete an entire coat,” said the woman, who works without a contract, or insurance, and is paid in cash on a monthly basis. “I try to do two coats per day.”
The unregulated work she completes in her apartment is outsourced to her from a local factory that also manufactures outerwear for some of the best-known names in the luxury business, including Louis Vuitton and Fendi. The most she has ever earned, she said, was 24 euros ($28) for an entire coat.
Homework — working from home or a small workshop as opposed to in a factory — is a cornerstone of the fast-fashion supply chain. It is particularly prevalent in countries such as India, Bangladesh, Vietnam and China, where millions of low-paid and predominantly female homeworkers are some of the most unprotected in the industry, because of their irregular employment status, isolation and lack of legal recourse.
家庭代工─ 在家中或小型工作室而非工廠工作─已成為快速時尚供應鏈的基石。在印度、孟加拉、越南和中國這些國家，家庭代工尤其普遍，數以百萬計，且主要是女性的家庭代工從業人員 ，因就業狀況不穩定，孤立和欠缺法律追索權，屬於該行業中最缺乏保護的一群。
That similar conditions exist in Italy, however, and facilitate the production of some of the most expensive wardrobe items money can buy, may shock those who see the “Made in Italy” label as a byword for sophisticated craftsmanship.
Increased pressure from globalization and growing competition at all levels of the market mean that the assumption implicit in the luxury promise — that part of the value of such a good is that it is made in the best conditions, by highly skilled workers, who are paid fairly — is at times put under threat.
Although they are not exposed to what most people would consider sweatshop conditions, the homeworkers are allotted what might seem close to sweatshop wages. Italy does not have a national minimum wage, but roughly 5 to 7 euros per hour is considered an appropriate standard by many unions and consulting firms. In extremely rare cases, a highly skilled worker can earn as much as 8 to 10 euros an hour. But the homeworkers earn significantly less, regardless of whether they are involved in leatherwork, embroidery or another artisanal task.