Industrial sewing machine operators in top demand : Apparel industry awaits survey to tackle HR dilemma | Sunday Observer

Industrial sewing machine operators in top demand : Apparel industry awaits survey to tackle HR dilemma

Sri Lanka’s apparel exporters are awaiting the results of a crucial labour market study presently being conducted by a top independent private research agency to tackle the problem of labour shortages in the sector, an industry source told the Business Observer on Friday.

The study will include ascertaining reasons why there has been a lack of interest among the labour workforce to take up apparel sector jobs specifically positions such as industrial sewing machine operators, which has the highest demand, according to the first ever survey on labour demand in the country last year.

“The Sri Lanka Apparel Exporters’ Association has hired a leading agency and instructed them to conduct a survey to ascertain reasons for the labour shortage.

After this report, which is expected by the end of February, is released, we hope to submit our recommendations to stakeholders including governmental bodies,” Chairman of the Sri Lanka Apparel Exporters’ Association (SLAEA), Felix Fernando said.

According to the Labour Demand Survey 2017 conducted by the Department of Census and Statistics, the job of an industrial sewing machine operator is at present, an occupation that is most in-demand by employers, representing more than 15% of Sri Lanka’s labour needs.

“We plan to work with the Ministry of Industries, Export Development Board and various institutes and explore the possibilities of taking corrective action,” Fernando said. Commenting on a personal note on the reasons why the apparel industry fails to attract enough workers, Fernando said this could be because Sri Lankan society does not recognise the importance of blue collar jobs. “Maybe the problem has to be addressed with the education curriculum where the mindset of everyone is to do white collar jobs or go abroad.

Another part of the problem could be because the reputation for the job has been tarnished by various media reports,” he pointed out.

However, the SLAEA Chairman highlighted that he assumes salaries and incentives of sewing machine operators cannot be an issue since they are paid better in comparison to other industries.

According to DCS, the main objective of the Labour Demand Survey was to identify the high-demand occupations in country and estimate the demand in numbers.

The survey also included data of current employment profile, challenges of working with newly hired employees and an estimation of the number of vacancies and expected number of vacancies in the next twelve months.

“The importance of this survey is multi-faceted. The labour market is influenced by new technological developments and, therefore, skills need to be changed accordingly. To figure out this demand, the Department of Census and Statistics as the main statistics provider of the country conducted an enterprise survey with the support of International Labour Organization,” the statement by DCS said.