Major Australian retailers Kmart and Target have come under fire for selling $2 school uniforms while factory workers are paid below levels that can cover basic living expenses.
The $2 polo shirts that are the focus of Target's national "Back to School" campaign are produced in Bangladeshi factories where wages can be as low as $97 a month.
This national minimum wage is up to 45 per cent below the "living wage" that allows workers to pay for basic food, water, shelter, clothing, and transport, according to Oxfam and international workers unions.
Rival retailer Kmart is also selling $5 button-up school shirts from factories in Bangladesh, while its $2 polos are made in China.
The retail cost of the polos is less than the wholesale amount paid by Best and Less, which was slammed in a2015 Oxfam report.
The founder of ethical clothing brand, Etiko, Nick Savidis, said he was "flabbergasted" by the pricing. "I don't know how they could do that without ripping someone off," he said. "It's not just the supply chain. It's where the fabrics are dyed and woven, where the cotton has grown. I have no idea how they could do it at that price, not to mention the cost of shipping it to Australia."
Nick Savidis said that the popularity of the $2 uniforms was ironic.
"There isn't one school that doesn't talk about globalisation or have teachers that talk about social justice and then they go and buy the cheapest school uniform they can," he said.
"What has been done is the absolute minimum, no major fashion retailers are paying above a living wage. Ultimately consumers have to be held accountable. It doesn't take too much to work out how cheap fashion is created."
Apparently it is also the case with a lot of the high viz clothing everywhere. The secondary school uniforms we have been buying our children over the last 8 years certainly haven't been cheap primarily because they can't be bought from the big chain stores.