The footwear industry is a constantly growing global economic sector. It’s continual growth is due to several factors including the steadily increasing demand of consumers in Europe and the USA, as well as the increasing demand in producing countries like China or India.
Furthermore, footwear does not simply include functional wear with work and everyday clothing. Rather, shoes are increasingly being purchased as important fashion items. Footwear is therefore subject to certain fashion trends of the current season, which also impacts demand. Similar to the garment industry, links in the supply chain of the shoe production has become increasingly global since the 1970s.
Footwear production has declined in Europe but remains relevant for the European consumption. Production is gene- rally moving to so-called low-income countries. This is due to the fact that some elements of shoe production are extremely labor-intensive, especially in the early production stages. Several areas of shoe production, such as sewing the uppers are still manufactured only by manual labor and often by homework.
This can be very cost-intensive in regulated labour markets, where wage and labour standards are higher. In unregulated labour markets, such as in India, homeworkers responsible for the most labour intensive aspects of shoe production are often among the most precarious workers sub- jected to insecure and unprotected work, very little pay and unsafe working conditions.
This fact sheet provides a brief overview of global shoe production, the serious consequences it has on human rights and the environment, and what changes are urgently needed.