Women make up about 80 percent of the world’s garment industry workforce, but they are mostly paid their wages in cash and many lack access to traditional financial services. And when they are paid in cash, many women workers cite an inability to save because a family member controls their income. Geography and social conventions can have a major impact a woman’s ability to save money. In many parts of the developing world, women’s economic geographies are substantially smaller, closer to home, and more restricted than men’s.
For example, a woman receiving her income in cash may have difficulty accessing a bank branch or mobile money agent to deposit the cash. In many cases, travel away from her home or home town is problematic due to social conventions or her domestic duties, so she has no alternative to asking her husband or a son to make deposits and withdrawals on her behalf. Which means they know her PIN and would regularly see her balance.
A cash-in-cash-out mobile money network won’t solve the problem. To draw unbanked workers into the formal financial system, wages need to paid electronically, giving all workers and women in particular greater control over their finances and a safer way to save. At the factory level, suppliers also benefit from cost savings, due to lower administration and HR costs, and reduced absenteeism and staff turnover.
But fortunately, according to the Better Than Cash Alliance, global brands like Gap Inc., H&M, Marks & Spencer, Target, and Debenhams are now leading the way in South Asia in digitizing the payrolls of companies in their supply chains. Global garment retailer Gap Inc., for example, requires the 800 factories in its global supply chain to move to digital payments by 2020, which will positively impact the lives of more than one million garment workers.