Just 6 months back, apparel industry experts used to talk a lot about Blockchain, Industry 4.0, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Circular Economy. But now in the changed conditions as massive reverse migration has taken place in the last 4 months across India and when garment industry as well as workers and various State Governments have been adversely impacted, Skill Mapping has become a buzz word. Skill mapping seems to have proved as a major tool for benefitting all, which is why many states have taken various steps for the same. It is pertinent to highlight here that various states has given the name of skill mapping to their initiatives, but so far they have basically done sector mapping identifying the industry or sector the workers belong to. It has given a clear picture to availability of workers from a particular trade like garment manufacturing or construction, etc.
Skill mapping, in fact, recognises the talents, skills and knowledge of workers and even categorises them under skilled, semi-skilled or highly skilled groups. Their earnings and further growth depend on the category they get. Skill mapping draws a line between skilled and unskilled people and plans for the restoration of their livelihoods.
This is the most crucial time for all stakeholders and steps taken at this time will set a direction for the future also. The main labour-source state, Uttar Pradesh has already completed the skill mapping of more than 3.2 million migrant workers, while Bihar has done the same for around 2 million workers.
Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have taken a step forward in this regard, and with the help of Apparel Made-Ups Home Furnishing Sector Skill Council (AMHSSC) stated the exact assessment of the workers. After the proper assessment, which is as per industry standards, these workers get certificates which not only create job opportunities for them, but also make them eligible for schemes like MUDRA (Micro Units Development and Refinance Agency) loan.
Roopak Vashisht, CEO, AMHSSC, told Apparel Resources, “So far, Uttar Pradesh has identified around 15,000 workers of the garment industry. Our assessors have sessions of around 60 hours with these workers, and after assessing their skills, they get the certificate.” He further added that Bihar Government has gone one step ahead, as along with skill assessment, it is also planning to make SHGs (Self Help Group), which will enable group of workers to start a small unit.
Along with jobs in organised factories, employment opportunities in home states even in local districts are more important from a worker’s point of view, and few steps have been taken in this regard, like Uttar Pradesh Government has insisted that women SHGs could be provided with equipment to stitch uniforms and knit sweaters for primary school students.
It is pertinent to mention here that the majority of migrant workers that used to work at apparel factories across India belonged to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. And now most of the industry is struggling, as workers are not back to factories.
Looking at the current conditions, no doubt, apparel manufacturing industry, especially exports, has to work on the principle of gig economy. Recent clamour regarding the change in labour laws is also like support for the industry. All this, in fact, is pushing to have more trust on highly skilled workers and that too as per the actual need. And for this, the first condition is proper skill mapping of workers, so one should have a fair idea as to what exactly needs to be done, be it skill development or ensuring real availability of workforce which serves the purpose.
Comparatively, Governments of small states like Assam and Manipur, with fewer workforces, have started maintaining records of their workers of not only their basic information, but also their skills and aspects which can help them get employment. As the use of technology adds value to every system, it is good to know that Assam is using SAMPARKA (Software Application for Migrated People to Assam for Rejuvenating Karma Abhiyan). Manipur launched a website (www.mssd.in) for a similar initiative.
Apart from worker livelihoods, skill mapping data also facilitates the Government with policymaking, and thus, helping the industry in taking short-term as well as long-term decisions. For example, affordable rental housing complexes (ARHC) for migrant workers and urban poor. Recently, the Union Government also launched a rural public works scheme, the Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan, worth Rs. 50,000 crore to create jobs for millions of migrant workers.
It must be mentioned here that states like Odisha – from where lakhs of people go to states considered as apparel manufacturing hubs including in Tamil Nadu, Bangalore, Delhi-NCR, Punjab, and Jharkhand for work – have yet not started any such initiative. It needs to be done on a priority basis.
There are examples wherein various states in India have supported each other and when it comes to employment of labour, both labour-source states and labour-host states can help one another in the process. So various states can explore the opportunities of working together, be it skill mapping or further employment generation.
In order to capture the information regarding the movement of migrants and facilitating the smooth movement of stranded people across states, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has developed an online dashboard – National Migrant Information System (NMIS). The online portal would maintain a central repository on migrant workers and help in speedy inter-state communication/co-ordination to facilitate their smooth movement to native places.
One must appreciate that apart from the State Governments, NGOs are also coming forward for this initiative. Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) has set up help desks, and details collated are shared with the Government. Apart from the skill-related question, BMS also gathered information which will be helpful for the overall upliftment of workers.
Whatever efforts the various State Governments are making to provide employment to the workers, it is also a hard fact that apart from Uttar Pradesh, none of the other home states will be able to give jobs to the apparel workers in their respective home state, at least in the next 2-3 years. Mainstream media has been constantly reporting that people in a state like Bihar are not getting jobs locally, and so, they wish to come back to metro cities for jobs. If these workers wish to make money by working in apparel factories, they have to come back to established hubs. In such cases, proper records of skill mapping will be really helpful for all.