I’ve been trying to figure out as best I can whether or not the Econscious garment factory’s reported 2007-2008 wage of 4600 rupees for a month of full-time work qualifies as a “livable wage” for its workers who live in the city of Lahore, Pakistan. One way to figure this out is to actually ask people who are interested parties in the economy of Lahore. As it turns out, workers in Lahore, the Labor Party Pakistan and the owner of a business doing work with a Lahore soccer ball factory peg a livable wage in the 12000-18000 rupee/month range, far above what workers at the Econscious factory were being paid in the winter of 2007-2008.
Another way to figure out if 4600 rupees a month is affordable is to get reports from Lahore on what 4600 rupees will buy. Here’s just one indication: a contemporaneous October 4, 2007 UNHCR report on living conditions for a family that’s moved to Lahore, Pakistan:
It’s known as Pakistan’s cultural capital, home to spectacular Mughal architecture, Sufi shrines, museums, gardens and a kite festival that draws thousands of partygoers every year. But turn your attention away from the treasures of Lahore and you find what comes with any urban sprawl – garbage galore. Picking up the trash is a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it….
Few children here can afford to go to school, so they run around the muddy slum with dirty faces and no shoes. “These children are so beautiful,” said Bibi Gul, wiping the snot from her granddaughter’s face as flies hovered around. “But I can’t even afford 10 rupees for the soap to clean their faces.”…
Nearby, a garbage-recycling factory emits smoke that causes breathing problems in the community.
Rent in this slum? According to UNHCR, it’s 7500 rupees a month.
Even if rent were the only expense, these living conditions would be beyond the means of workers at the factory for Econscious in Lahore. If we follow the common standard that rent should occupy no more than 30% of a monthly budget, then rent in this Lahore slum is more than five times too high for a single parent and 2.7 times too high for a family of dual earners in which both parents work at the factory, each for the full Pakistani 48 hour work week.