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Piece rate or partial pay, garment workers look for the best option

Some factories in Vietnam, Indonesia, Jordan, Haiti and Nicaragua pay workers by piece rate. The piece rate system pays workers according to the number of units they produce. Compared with hourly or salaried workers garment workers who are paid piece rate are more likely to be weighed down by concerns about sexual harassment, verbal abuse and workplace injuries.

There is yet another system called partial pay, a hybrid of hourly and piece rate. Workers typically receive an hourly base salary—usually very low—along with an output-based incentive pay that activates only after a certain threshold has been achieved.

Piece rate workers can earn more on an hourly basis compared with their fixed-rate counterparts because this type of contract induces higher level of effort. However the base salary may be very low and the incentive pay, based on the output, is obtained only if a certain output threshold is reached.

Workers who are on a combination of pay types are concerned by the variability of their wages and a lack of transparency in how their wages are put together. These concerns can lead partial piece rate employees to work much harder, sometimes making their employment more strenuous and impacting their emotional and physical health.