Unsafe and Underpaid: Working Conditions in South Asia’s Leather, Leatherwear, and Footwear Factories

Focus: Bangladesh, Pakistan, and India

The leather sector – from production of the material itself to clothing, footwear, and accessories — is notorious for its environmental impact and poor human and labour rights. Unions are prevented from organizing and bargaining, while gender-based discrimination and child labour are commonplace. Exposure to toxic substances and work involving dangerous machinery also leave workers facing serious health problems.

Four recent regional studies on the leather industry and working conditions in Bangladesh, Pakistan, and India conducted in 2022 by the Together for Decent Leather consortium provide comprehensive information on the sector. The studies examine tanneries in Savar near Dhaka, tanneries and leather-processing facilities in Karachi in the Pakistani province of Sindh, and in the cities of Vellore and Ambur in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. All of the selected regions are key leather production hubs. The analysis is based on surveys of a total of 345 leather workers, interviews with local experts from civil society, business, and government, analysis of publicly available commercial data (e.g. concerning leather shoes produced in Bangladesh), as well as a survey of brandname companies and leather importers. This factsheet summarizes the studies’ most important findings.

Recommendations to companies and governments are also summarised. The consortium of „Together for Decent Leather" focuses on the recommendations to brands, retailers, online retailers and fashion companies: Companies must acknowledge and fulfill their human rights due diligence obligations in supply chains. Companies must provide suppliers with the means to comply with human rights and labour standards, including through sustainable sourcing practices. These measures should cover all stages of processing, including upstream products and raw materials.

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This document was produced with the financial support of the European Union and various other donors. The contents are the sole responsibility of the Decent Leather Consortium authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union or any other funder. The translation into German was supported by Brot für die Welt with funds from Kirchlicher Entwicklungsdienst, Landesstelle für Entwicklungszusammenarbeit of the State of Berlin, and by Engagement Global on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).


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Schuhe & Kleidung
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