How Indian Leather Workers Risk Health To Make Shoes For Global Market

India is the world's second largest producer of footwear and leather garments and almost 90 per cent of the country's footwear exports go to the European Union.

Mumbai: About 2.5 million Indian workers work long hours with toxic chemicals for poverty wages in the country’s leather industry, making shoes and clothes for Western brands, a study has found.

In a report published on Wednesday the India Committee of the Netherlands (ICN), a human rights organisation, called for greater transparency in supply chains.

The study mapped the leather industry hubs of Agra, Kolkata and the Vaniyambadi–Ambur cluster in Tamil Nadu that supply hides, leather, garments, accessories and footwear for export.

“While more employment was created in the leather industry through the growth of large-scale export centres, no attention was paid to the nature and quality of the employment created,” ICN said in the report.

“Accidents regularly occur with machine operators getting trapped, workers cleaning underground waste tanks suffocating from toxic fumes, or workers drowning in toxic sludge at the tannery premises,” it said.

India is the world’s second largest producer of footwear and leather garments and almost 90 per cent of the country’s footwear exports go to the European Union, the research states.

In small, unregulated factories, workers have no social security cover such as state health insurance or pensions and earn a tiny fraction of the products’ global price.

Researchers spoke to Ramu, a low caste Dalit, who worked as a leather handler for a tanning unit where he lost both his eyes when acid splashed in his face. He told researchers his 13-year-old daughter now works in a footwear factory.

The research shows tannery workers often suffer from fever, eye inflammation, skin diseases and cancer as they work with toxic chemicals and rarely have any safety training or protection.

In December 2015, three leather workers died and two were hospitalised after inhaling toxic gases from leather effluent in a complex in Kolkata, the report said, citing local media.

Dalits and Muslims make up the majority of the workforce.

While the report highlights abuse of India’s leather industry workers, including women and children, it said some major brands recognise the urgency to address the issue.

“Companies should increase the traceability and transparency of their full supply chain up-to the level of tanneries and subcontractors,” the report said.

© Thomson Reuters 2017


  1. Thank you, I have recently been searching for info about this subject for a long time and yours
    is the best I have found out till now. However, what concerning the bottom line?
    Are you certain about the source?

  2. Great blog here! Also your web site loads up very fast!
    What host are you using? Can I get your affiliate link to your host?
    I wish my site loaded up as fast as yours lol

  3. Hmm is anyone else encountering problems with the images on this blog loading?
    I’m trying to determine if its a problem on my end or if it’s the
    blog. Any responses would be greatly appreciated.

  4. Hey I am so happy I found your site, I really found you
    by accident, while I was browsing on Bing for something
    else, Regardless I am here now and would just like to say thanks for a tremendous post and a all round enjoyable blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to
    read it all at the minute but I have bookmarked it and also included your RSS feeds, so when I have time
    I will be back to read more, Please do keep up the awesome work.

  5. Woah! I’m really loving the template/theme of this website.

    It’s simple, yet effective. A lot of times it’s difficult to
    get that “perfect balance” between user friendliness and appearance.
    I must say that you’ve done a awesome job with this. Also, the blog loads very quick for me on Chrome.

    Superb Blog!

  6. First off I want to say wonderful blog! I had a
    quick question which I’d like to ask if you do not
    mind. I was curious to know how you center yourself and clear your
    thoughts before writing. I have had trouble clearing
    my mind in getting my thoughts out there.
    I truly do enjoy writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are wasted just trying to figure out how to
    begin. Any recommendations or hints? Cheers!


Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.