For the industries in Coimbatore, employment of women at shop floors is not a new trend. Though they are present in almost all the sectors, their strength is not uniformly high across the manufacturing sectors.

The number of women workers are high in textile mills, plastic and rubber industries, and in light engineering units. In foundries and heavy industries, the number is low because they are employed more for non-core jobs.

Textile mills employed women in post-spinning activities even 60 years ago and there were women trade union leaders even several years back in the textile sector, says S. Dinakaran, chairman of the Southern India Mills’ Association.

Even in the 1990s women were employed in the mills for two shifts. In the recent years, the many mills went in for employment of women with accommodation facilities in the unit premises. Nearly 20 large-scale mills have the association’s code of conduct certificate for women employment.

However, now there is shortage of workers and it is difficult to get women workers, says an industry source.

In the textile spinning sector, where women used to be more than 60 per cent of the total strength, migrant workers from other States are joining the mills during the last couple of years.

Though the number of women employed in textile mills has not reduced, many mills now have migrant workers from the northern States, says K.G. Jagannathan, secretary of Coimbatore District Textile Mill Workers’ Union.

In the case of small-scale industries, R. Ramachandran, president of Coimbatore District Small Industries’ Association, says women employment is 15 to 20 per cent.

They are employed more in the quality control department and in industries such as light engineering, drilling, plastic and rubber units.

A trade union leader however says that women workers in engineering units are just about 10 per cent. The number varies with individual units.

Women are mostly employed for non-core jobs in these industries, the leader says.