THE government believes the clothing, textile, footwear and leather sector has stabilised.
Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel said on Tuesday the sector, which had bled thousands of jobs in previous years, was beginning to reap the benefits of a number of government interventions such as the Clothing and Textile Competitiveness Programme, which was introduced in 2010.
It is meant to ensure the sector’s survival despite the onset of competition, mainly from China.
At least 50,000 jobs were lost in the sector in the past decade.
The Industrial Policy Action Plan has identified the textile, clothing, leather and footwear sector as “high priority” because of its labour-intensive character.
In many developing countries, the sector has provided the early impetus for industrialisation, economic growth and job creation.
Addressing delegates at the Fashion Imbizo in Cape Town organised by the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union (Sactwu), Mr Patel said more factories were hiring than were retrenching. Law enforcement had tightened the screws to curb illegal imports.
While clothing is a big job creator, providing more jobs than any other manufacturing sector, innovation would be key for its survival, Mr Patel said. “Therefore as government we will support companies that want to invest in modernising their workplaces.”
Despite the benefits offered by the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), Mozambique remained the largest market for South African clothing, he said.
Agoa gives African states including SA preferential access to US markets.
Sactwu general secretary Andre Kriel said current trends suggested the industry had stabilised.
“Yes, we agree with the minister that the industry has stabilised. There has been net employment growth over the last year, albeit it very small,” he said.
“The main issue, though, is that the jobs bloodbath of previous years has been stopped.”
According to Sactwu, in four out of the last six quarters, there has been jobs growth in the clothing, textile and leather sector.
However, industry players are concerned about long-term strategy. “The money is there but there is no coherent strategy for the sector,” a delegate at the imbizo said.
The sector, like many others, fears that load shedding is leading to major job losses, thus offsetting the gains it has made in recent years. Surveys show workers are idle and working shorter hours due to load shedding.
[“source – bdlive.co.za”]