Garment Industry Losing Female Force; Reason Includes Sexual Harassment
| ANITA TRIPATHI - Thought Leader, Bangalore - 20 Feb 2019

Garment Industry Losing Female Force; Reason Includes Sexual Harassment

 

The female participation in India’s garment industry workforce, which was 37% a decade ago, has now come down to 27%, much lower than Nepal and Sri Lanka!

 

 

By Anita Tripathi

INDIAN OBSERVER POST

Bangalore, Feb 20, 2019: The garment industry, one of the most female-dominated industries in the world, is losing its skilled workforce in wake of the negligence of providing support to their basic needs. India is among the four largest garment exporters in the world.  

The female participation in India’s garment industry workforce, which was 37% a decade ago, has now come down to 27%, much lower than Nepal and Sri Lanka! And the reasons are low wages, flexible contracts, and massive sexual harassment with sweatshop terrible working conditions. One of the main difficulties faced by such women is lack of safe and conveniently located accommodation.

The garment industry has paid huge cost due to unaddressed problems of female migrant workers by witnessing the steep decline of female participation ratio in the last decade.

In the 1960s, the inception of 'Third World Women Industrial Workforce' made a breakthrough. By 1990s with the commencement of Globalization, it rapidly sailed across the third world countries. Many feminists see this phenomenon of liberalization as a gateway to women liberation through economic empowerment. For women in developing countries, industrial occupation is not less than a way to escape the bundle of social and personal problems.

In plight of Aisa, 69% of Indian survive on less than USD  2 per day, a third of Chinese are still standing at the same poverty level as of India despite China's remarkable success in poverty reduction. India and China conjointly share more poor population than the African continent.

The basic metrics of development and GDP have misled the real picture of even and sustainable development, particularly in the case of the third world countries.

In spite of women contributing half of the population of the world, gender equality remains a distant dream for sustainable development of the third world countries. These poor countries have global competitive advantages as they offer the cheapest workers in highly unregulated terms and conditions. Considering the women of this underprivileged world as more patient, highly productive with greater manual dexterity, has made them the top choice of toy, garment and textile industries.

The garment industry is one of the most female-dominated  (in workforce ) industry in the world. This industry has illustrated the challenges of global manufacturing existed in form of low wages, flexible contracts, massive sexual harassment with sweatshop terrible working conditions. Evidently, the four largest garment exporters in the world are China, Bangladesh, Vietnam and India. China is the most popular choice while Bangladesh and India tie for second place.

For the two consecutive years of 2015, and 2016, China has observed an inevitable shift (negative growth)  in the garment industry on account of rising wages, the standard of living with slow population growth. For this very reason last decade has witnessed the noticeable upswing in garment production in countries like India, Vietnam, Pakistan, Bangladesh as well as Cambodia.

Since India has set her place remarkably double-quick as a nation in manufacturing and exporting garments across the globe. Owing to the fact that the garment industry offers the unique opportunity of employment to literate and even semi-literate, just after a short period of training as formal employment. 

As Labour intensive nature of the garment industry has to deal mainly with human resource therefore in absence of basic infrastructure and thin legal protection moreover poor working environment poses serious concerns of human rights violation. Systematic exploitation is the worries embedded in practices of this industry. To exemplify this fact here is an incident. In the Southern city of Bengaluru, serious allegations have been made at Human Rights Tribunal naming leading global brands; H&M and Gap's.

Subcontracting manufacturing units of these fast fashion supply chain propagate the climate of harassment with extreme pressure at the fast working condition, eventually creating the environment of physical and mental abuses under the umbrella of productivity indicators.

Potentially garment industry has played a very crucial role in absorbing unskilled female workers from remote to suburban areas and from one state to another. These huge migrations bring forth some challenges before them as garment manufacturing units are mostly concentrated in and around Metros in NCR, Bangalore, Chennai and major cities of Gujarat.   The journey of these migrant female workers starts with a flood of problems like home-sickness, quick adaptation to a new environment, culture, food as well as the fast lifestyle of Metros. One of the main difficulties faced by such women is the lack of safe and conveniently located reasonable accommodations. 

The industry has paid huge cost due to unaddressal of problems of female migrant workers by witnessing the steep decline of female participation ratio in the last decade. In this way, the garment industry is losing its skilled workforce in wake of the negligence of providing support to their basic needs.

A sigh of relief for both, the industry and its female workforce  that FICCI has recognised the reason of great fall in the ratio of women workers and has brought a way forward to address its challenges through housing scheme for female migrant workers in  metrocities. In the recent development, the industry has felt the pulse of problems and has suggested to Ministry of Textile through devising the housing scheme for female workers.

The proposed model will work in coordination with government, local government and industry ,for finding the suitable land to construct hostels within the vicinity of ten kilometres of the metro periphery. Creation of such facilities in and around garment manufacturing units will go a long way in rebuilding and retaining the confidence of migrant female workers.

Globally, third world countries are struggling with barriers such as lack of good governance, poor infrastructure, poor internal structure of accountability, the absence of trade unions at factories, moreover the corrupt nexus between businesses and government officials. Out of the entire scenario, MNCs have got to play the most insensitive role.

This can be explained as their businesses are based on the principle of profit maximization which consequently generates a lack of ethics between business channels. The heavy indulgence of every person involved ( from brand owners to sub-contractors) in converting a piece of cloth to appreal, creates a chain of corrupt interactions. The sensitivity of MNCs towards their workers is minimal, this can be proven by the fact that in spite of incidents of repeated fire tragedies in Bangladesh, no concrete measure has been adopted by the globally recognised brands.

Out of the vast stretches of suggestive measures, some certainly fit the situation to step towards reforms.

Formation of a separate ministry of women employed as formal workers is the need of the hour. The ministry can then ensure the appropriate functioning of labour acts, with ILO conventions while formulating labour policy, compensations for workplace accidents, health and death insurance policies, creation of women welfare funds from profit of businesses, mandatory trade union formations and finally open database to be built with information regarding compliances of all acts and laws.

The adoption and shunt practice of such measures that generate women-centric working conditions not only in the garment industry , but in whole lot, shall disperse the white light of liberalization into VIBGYOR upon the universal womanhood , bringing with it the vibrancy of socio-economic independence for women and  for the world, several benefits too vast to predict .

 Photo Courtesy - www.indiaapparelfair.com

(Writer Anita Tripathi is former Mrs India Beautiful Smile at Beauty Pageant; Former Country Coordinator, Excel Book Publications, Tanzania; Former Research Associate, UN - PRME at Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: She has diversified experience in life sciences, biotechnology & business management through education, teaching, research, community development and strategic business expansion work; MBA in Corporate Management; M. Phil in Biotech; MSc (Botany);)


Browse By Tags