A project partly funded by the World Bank and by development agencies from Germany and Britain is helping the Ludhiana knitwear industry to overcome a grave labour shortage, while empowering women in the region.
Termed ‘Implementing business development services for medium, small and micro enterprises (MSMEs)’, the project is presently in its second phase, to conclude in 2011.
The Ludhiana knitwear cluster comprises 14,000 MSMEs and accounts for 80 per cent of the country’s wool and acrylic products’ output. It gives direct and indirect employment to 400,000 people.
However, the traditional pool of immigrant labour has been drying up, a problem which has also affected Punjab’s farmers in harvesting the crop. Landless labour from elsewhere now has other alternatives, such the new national rural jobs programme and like projects.
Sanjeev Chaudhary, cluster development manager for the project, says a study of the problems faced by MSMEs in this cluster showed the severe shortage of skilled labour to be a common problem.
Hence, he said, it was decided to turn to local and rural women, training them for working in these factories.
“The first training centre opened in the village selected 50 girls. The girls were provided training on various industrial stitching machine operations and motivational programs were held for the trainees, as well as their families, to allow the girls to work in the factories. After the training, almost 80 per cent of the trainees were employed by the local firms. Till now, (that) project has managed to train 100 females in this module and out of them, 73 females are presently working with a well-reputed firm in the cluster,” he said.
In the second module, inexperienced and unemployed girls were motivated to come to the factories for working as stitching machine operators. The project has trained almost 170 females in various factories and almost 90 per cent of them are employed. The project aims to train another 1,000-1,500 females as stitching machine operators and also to also provide training for related skills like embroidery, linking, and flat machine operations.
This, he said, shows a way forward, for both industry and for rejuvenating the rural economy.