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Female UK garment factory workers at higher risk of dying from Covid

By Tess Stenzel

Feb 18, 2021

Retail

Female garment factory workers in the UK have statistically significantly higher death rates related to the coronavirus than the rate among other women of the same age in the population, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

In the ‘assemblers and routine operatives’ category - which includes jobs such as sewing - 21 deaths were recorded among women aged 20-64 from England and Wales between March and December 2020, resulting in a death rate of 39.2 deaths per 100,000 females.

The subgroup of ‘sewing machinists’ appeared to have the highest fatality rate among women of any group, at around 65 deaths per 100,000. However, because this was only based on 14 deaths, the ONS said the calculation was less reliable and that the rate could be as low as 35 or as high as 110 per 100,000.

Furthermore, deaths of females in sales and retail were 26.9 deaths per 100,000, based on 111 deaths, while managers and directors in retail and wholesale had 26.7 deaths per 100,000 females, based on 24 deaths.

The findings further reemphasize the need for strong government regulations and protection for garment workers in the UK, according to UK campaign group Labour Behind the Label (LBL).

Dominique Muller, policy director of LBL stated: “In our view, the abuses in Leicester factories must be set within a wider landscape of laws and regulatory bodies that are clearly failing to provide adequate protection.

“Action is needed both to ensure all workers in the Leicester garment industry - and beyond - are protected and to curb the abusive, potentially illegal purchasing practices by clothing retailers and brands that have contributed to this situation as well and ensure that there is new and effective legislation which ensures financial and legal liability and due diligence for all UK brands and supply chains.”

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