Malaysia manufactures more than 11 billion pairs of latex gloves a year, providing at least 60% of the global market in terms of volume.
In 2010 a Swedish NGO, Swedwatch, investigated a glove supplier on behalf of one its customers, a Swedish County Council. The company is one of the biggest manufacturers of gloves in Malaysia and exports to a number of countries (US 60%, EU 20%, Japan 10%) including the Swedish health service.
Problems were found with workers who had been hired through a subcontractor. Many were immigrants from Bangladesh, Nepal and Vietnam who had paid an agency in their home country to help them find work in Malaysia, sometimes paying up to the equivalent of 11 months’ salary. Talking to Swedwatch the workers told of dangerous conditions in the factory, with risk of burns from hot latex and machinery and inadequate fire protection with some fire exits locked. Migrant workers are not allowed to form unions, so they had to accept poor working conditions and worked day-to-day, 7 days a week, with no job security.