A Major Issue In The Indian Textile Industry

The textile industry is one of the biggest industrial sectors in magnitude and second in terms of employment in India. This industry contributes 14% to the total industrial production, 4% to the total GDP and employs 35 million people and thus, contributes significantly to the Indian economy. Earlier, the Indian textile industry was more manual labour-oriented and therefore, the workforce possessed the right skill set, which was passed on from generations to generations as well. However, due to the advancements in textile production and processing technologies, this industry is no more old-age skill-centric. There is a need for highly skilled labour in the industry and this shortage of skilled labour is emerging as a major labour issue.

The shortage of skilled labour was also highlighted recently by Srihari Balakrishnan, a board member of Indian Texpreneurs Federation (ITF). As per ITF, the textile industry in and around Coimbatore, Tirupur, Karur and part of Bengaluru is facing the shortage of labour and mainly the skilled ones. These industries require 3-5 lakh workers at any given time.

Except for the spinning sector, the textile industry is highly fragmented in nature due to policy restrictions related to labour laws and the fiscal advantages available to small-scale units. The textile units are mostly engaged in job work (sub-contracting) structure and hence a large portion of the employment is in the fragmented production activities. Also, the small units do not have an explicit demarcation of job functions such as sourcing, sales, etc. Though all segments in textile industry suffer a severe shortage of skilled labour; spinning, being (mostly) the organised sector, is slightly faring better than the others.

This labour issue has emerged due to various social, political and economic reasons. Some of them are:

· Cost of skilling or training is high and textile industries are reluctant to impart any training to the labour that increases their cost.

· The attrition rate of skilled and unskilled labour has reached 7-8%. Workers can now find new job opportunities near their homes due to growing rural economy. For the comfort and better wages, skilled labour migrates to other sectors from textile sector, where they have to face tough working conditions and low wages.

· Benefits received under MNREGA for 100 days in hometown make the workers stay there itself.

However, to bring the situation under control, Textile Sector Skill Council (TSC), a non-profit organisation, is working to develop a robust ecosystem for training and skilling people in textile mills and handloom sectors. The TSC has developed 88 qualification packs that list the competencies required for the 80% job roles in textile mills and handloom sectors. The national skill development council declares these as the national standards. The Modi Government's skilling target is 400 million by 2022. For the same, the Government has announced Rs. 1,300-crore Scheme for Capacity Building in Textile Sector (SCBTS). With such efforts, we are expected to have a surplus skilled labour of 47 million by 2025.

The Indian textile industry cannot afford to ignore this labour issue of skilling its workforce to keep on producing and exporting quality textile goods. Skilled labour is extremely important or rather imperative for the Indian textile industry to attain a competitive edge in the world textile market.

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