Saturday, July 26, 2014

Big Problem - The average wage of workers in Indian Textile Industry

The average wage of textile workers in India is low despite the fact that the textile and garment industry has been growing rapidly in the last few years. The latest data released by India’s Apparel Export Promotion Council (AEPC) shows that the country is now the second largest textile exporter in the world, after China. However, this good news fails to reflect in the minimum wages paid to the workers. 

The latest raise in minimum wages of textile workers in Delhi, a major textile and garment center of the country, was declared on October 1, 2013. The government had raised the monthly minimum wages of unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled workers with effect from this date. The minimum wage of unskilled workers went up from $125 to $130, that of semi-skilled workers – from $138 to $144, and the same of skilled workers – from $151 to $158. The last wage increase was in April of 2013.

The minimum wages in India vary a lot based on the province; however, the general trend in wages went up. Despite the rise in minimum wages, the average wages paid to textile workers in India is considered to be $100. Protests for increasing the wages has been going on since 2009 in the state of Karnataka, but the protestors are yet to benefit from it. The government did form a sub-committee to negotiate a revised wage rate for the garment industry. There has been no update even though the matter was to be finalized in December of 2013. 

As one out of six families in India depends on the textile industry for their livelihood, it holds a prominent place in the country’s economy. The low wages offered to Indian textile workers is actually considered an advantage for the industry to compete globally. Compared to the current minimum wage of $45 in Bangladesh, the condition of Indian workers is slightly better. However, this is hardly comforting for the millions of people employed in the industry who are subjected to the following harsh working conditions:

·         Hard to make ends meet – This is a fundamental problem faced by textile workers of all developing countries, including India. The low wages often forces them into taking loans, which they cannot repay and thus, their miseries are compounded.
·         High work pressure – As the pressure of meeting the monthly target mounts, the hourly targets for a worker is set high; it becomes impossible for an average skilled worker to cope. Abuse by supervisors is common in textile factories of India for not meeting the target. However, some factory workers do not face this problem.
·         Forced overtime – This is another fundamental problem faced by textile workers. In India, the higher hourly rate for working overtime is set legally, but workers are never paid accordingly.
·         Codes of conduct – Most Indian textile workers are unaware of code of conduct. They are not allowed to complain about bad behavior of their supervisors during audits.
·         No union action – In most textile factories of India, organized unions do not exist. Reporting a problem to management turns out to be counterproductive as they are apathetic to the workers’ woes.

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