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.
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.