Apparel Online - - Mind Tree -

Be­ing an ap­parel man­u­fac­turer or stake­holder of tex­tile in­dus­try, how do you see cur­rent sce­nario of labour avail­abil­ity? Of late, have you no­ticed in­crease in labour avail­abil­ity…? If yes, is it the pos­i­tive im­pact of skill devel­op­ments schemes, or is it that ap­parel ex­ports have not grown as per the in­dus­try’s ex­pec­ta­tions, so more labour is not re­quired… Are there any other rea­sons also, like au­to­ma­tion, in­creased pro­duc­tiv­ity, ef­fi­ciency, etc.?

Har­ish Dua, MD, KG Ex­ports, Lud­hi­ana

You have raised a very valid ques­tion and I must say that de­spite the im­por­tant points you raised, like not much growth in ap­parel ex­ports, in­creas­ing us­age of au­to­ma­tion, up­surge in pro­duc­tiv­ity and ef­fi­ciency…, still there is scarcity of skilled labour. I have ob­served that due to clo­sure of some units, many skilled work­ers have left gar­ment in­dus­try and joined other trade, or started some­thing else as they don’t see any bright fu­ture in ap­parel in­dus­try.

There is abun­dance of un­skilled labour, but to train them is not an easy op­tion as we have al­ready tried this route but over­all re­sults are not very good. Big rea­son for the same, is that Govern­ment is not sup­port­ing the skill devel­op­ment ini­tia­tives. There may be var­i­ous schemes for skill en­hance­ment, but so far our ex­pe­ri­ence re­mained neg­a­tive as we opened two train­ing cen­tres with 50 stitch­ing ma­chines and got in­cen­tive

(Rs. 2000 per worker train­ing) for just one month. Fi­nally, we were forced to close both cen­tres. Now we are train­ing just for our own fac­tory’s re­quire­ment but this is not a so­lu­tion as far as whole in­dus­try is con­cerned. If Govern­ment is re­ally se­ri­ous about the em­ploy­ment gen­er­a­tion which is very much pos­si­ble by ap­parel man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try, Govern­ment should sup­port in­dus­try and work in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the in­dus­try. I would like to add one more thing here, the com­pa­nies us­ing lat­est ma­chines and who be­lieve in man­u­fac­tur­ing qual­ity prod­ucts, are fac­ing much heat over less avail­abil­ity of skilled work­ers.

Yo­geeta Prab­hakar, MD, Prab­hakar Over­seas Group of Com­pa­nies, Noida

Cer­tain Govern­ment pol­icy changes have made dras­tic changes in the labour avail­abil­ity as mar­ket is fac­ing re­ces­sion, but scale of wages is still high and many ex­porters aren’t able to man­u­fac­ture on buyer tar­get prices which leads to dif­fi­cult com­pe­ti­tion with the neigh­bour­ing com­pet­ing coun­tries, such as Viet­nam, China and Bangladesh. We are fac­ing de­cline in pro­duc­tion, and in or­der to cover up this gap, we have to im­port ma­chin­ery to re­place labour cost to beat the tar­get pric­ing for buy­ers and stores in US and UK mar­kets. I would clearly say that the ap­parel ex­ports have not shown growth as per in­dus­try ex­pec­ta­tions, but we are still try­ing to match the ex­pec­ta­tion which is a big task. Even the MEIS have been re­duced.

Cor­nelia Bos­man, Di­rec­tor, OpenHand (Com­mu­nity Crafts Ex­ports), Delhi

My con­cern is not how to re­cruit staff but how to re­tain them! There are two types of staff: Those who stay be­cause of pay; and those who stay re­gard­less of pay, but who favour a good work­ing en­vi­ron­ment. We strug­gle to find staff who fit the lat­ter (re­gard­less of skill). But when we do find them, we cling to them (trust­ing to en­hance their skill lev­els). With one crore un­em­ployed peo­ple in a state like UP alone, I don’t un­der­stand how there can pos­si­bly be a need for labour. Yet I do feel there is a short­age. More skilled labour is re­quired and will take time to build up. ‘Rome was not built in a day’, we say. Also keep in mind the past year’s eco­nomic dif­fi­cul­ties, growth pains of a new de­vel­op­ing coun­try.

If you wanted to em­ploy more staff you sim­ply could not, com­pared to the growth fore­casts for this com­ing year. I am al­ways re­minded that em­ploy­ing one man feeds an en­tire fam­ily. When I em­ploy one per­son, I think of all the peo­ple de­pen­dent on him. I have the high­est re­spect for the av­er­age In­dian who spends every ru­pee earned to marry off sis­ters, daugh­ters, cousins, spend money on births, fu­ner­als and the end­less such ex­pen­di­tures. In­dia needs more labour, more skilled labour and more en­trepreneurs to hon­our and help the man I de­scribed above.

Pawan Aarya, As­sis­tant Vice Pres­i­dent (IE and Tech­ni­cal), Ori­ent Craft, Noida

At Ori­ent Craft we do not face labour avail­abil­ity is­sues even when the whole in­dus­try is starv­ing for skilled man­power. Pay­ing for fa­cil­i­ties like dou­ble over­time, at­ten­dance bonus, pleas­ant work place, schol­ar­ships for the ed­u­ca­tion of work­ers’ chil­dren, work­shops on women em­pow­er­ment and many more worker wel­fare schemes are help­ing us to re­tain work­ers. I ob­serve that there is no in­crease in worker avail­abil­ity in NCR as such due to MGNREGA. Be­sides, many State Gov­ern­ments are invit­ing ex­porters with at­trac­tive schemes which is re­sult­ing in mi­grant labour is get­ting job op­por­tu­ni­ties nearer to their home town.

Ap­parel ex­ports are go­ing through a bad phase postGST im­ple­men­ta­tion and re­duc­tion in duty draw­back. Many small units are shut­ting down as they can’t meet the cost tar­get of buy­ers. So labour avail­abil­ity is as per de­mand and there is no short­age of man­power these days. As far as au­to­ma­tion is con­cerned, I must say that in Delhi-NCR au­to­ma­tion re­ally doesn’t work due to multi-prod­uct in­dus­try and im­pact is neg­li­gi­ble on worker re­quire­ments. In some cases where pro­duc­tiv­ity is high and ef­fi­ciency is at its best, one need to get more and more busi­ness to cut fixed costs. So there is no im­pact or change as such on labour re­quire­ment or avail­abil­ity.

Pur­shot­tam Gupta,

CEO, Ekta Fash­ion, Jaipur

Skilled labour avail­abil­ity is still an is­sue for ap­parel man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try. Along with this, I want to in­sist that In­dian do­mes­tic mar­ket is still a bet­ter op­por­tu­nity com­pared to ex­ports, since GST on fab­ric and re­duc­tion in duty draw­back rates has badly hit ex­porters. Due to these rea­sons, ap­parel ex­port is like non-prof­itable busi­ness. Ex­porters like us are re­ally in trou­ble due to non­re­fund of the ITC since July; and even banks didn’t sup­port ex­porters af­ter Ni­rav Modi case. Un­nec­es­sary doc­u­ments re­quired by banks and wait­ing for ship­ping bill up­date at DGFT are also con­cern­ing is­sues as banks don’t sup­port un­til and un­less all doc­u­ments are as per their sys­tem and their ease as well. Some­times even the banks hold ex­port doc­u­ments up to 10 days.

All this is against ease of do­ing busi­ness. Such is­sues are against the in­dus­try and have neg­a­tive im­pact on em­ploy­ment gen­er­a­tion, es­pe­cially at work­ers’ level.

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