Garment industry presents highest risk of death from Covid-19 for female workers

Campaigners believe the lack of enforcement of employment law is behind the shocking figures.

19 Feb 2021| News

The sewing machinist profession is the occupation associated with the highest risk of death from Covid-19 for women, analysis has shown.

According to figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in January, female garment workers are four times more likely than the average UK woman to die from Covid-19 infection.

The death rate for sewing machinists between the ages of 20 and 64 was found to be 65 per 100,000, even higher than that found among caring, leisure and other service occupations of 27 per 100,000. The overall death rate for UK women is 17 per 100,000.

Due to a small sample size, the ONS recommended caution, saying that the actual figure for sewing machinists could be anywhere from 35 per 100,000 to 110 per 100,000, indicating a significantly elevated risk of fatality even at the most conservative estimate.

Dominique Muller of campaign group Labour Behind the Label, which highlighted the data, said the fatalities can be attributed to the fact employers in the garment industry have been able to get away with breaking Covid-19 rules on social distancing measures, as well as operating through lockdowns.

“The failings of the government approach to labour enforcement and health and safety alongside the failure of brands taking responsibility for the workers has led to a perfect storm of exploitative and dangerous working conditions,” she said.

“Brands, unions and government agencies must now work together to create a binding set of obligations to protect those most vulnerable.”