Industry body Assocham on Monday voiced concern over the textile and clothing industry facing an immense challenge in mobilising additional workers to fulfill production requirements, as many of them are moving to other well-paying jobs.
The crisis-like situation comes at a time when India is losing its competitive edge in export markets due to rising input costs, amid stiff competition from neighbouring nations like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia and China, Assocham said in a release.
The chamber conducted an online and phone survey last week with heads of 100 textile firms in Ludhiana, Amritsar, Surat, Ahmedabad and Kolkata, and the findings call for immediate steps to be taken, it said.
Nearly 45 per cent of them said their units are utilising only 50 to 60 per cent of production capacity due to labour shortage. About 30 per cent of them said their margins are shrinking as they are not able to meet sale targets. Nearly 15 per cent of them said they are contemplating to shift focus on brand building, while 10 per cent of respondents said they may soon move production units to interior areas where workers are available at low wages.
The current workforce in Indian textile and clothing industry is about 35 million with an equal number employed in allied industries.
This should move up to 47 million by 2015, including five million skilled workers and two million technical and other personnel, if growth projections are to be met.
Most workers earning about Rs. 7,000 a month are of migratory nature. They move from the agricultural sector to cities after the sowing season for half of the year and get back to villages when the harvest season starts, Assocham Secretary General D.S. Rawat said.
But the government’s successful social sector schemes like the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) is discouraging labour migration from rural to urban areas. The MGNREGA assures them 100 days of wage employment guarantee in a financial year.
“There is a rampant shortage of workers in all segments of textile value chain that begins from cotton crop and leads to branding and retailing,” Mr. Rawat said.
“The industry needs to pay higher wages, provide health insurance and ensure that factories comply with internationally acceptable standards,” he added.
Textile and clothing industry will not be able to upgrade technologically quickly and will find difficult to survive in export and domestic markets unless a massive skill development programme is launched to bridge the gap of managerial and technical cadre of professionals for the fibre-to-fashion chain of textile, apparel and retail industries.