October 23, 2005


A textiles boom gives jobs to India's poor: The end of textile quotas and Chinese trade disputes have raised exports to the US by 36 percent. (Sunil Jagtiani, 10/24/05, The Christian Science Monitor0

Champa Kala, a 23-year-old seamstress, doesn't have the English or computer skills needed to find work in the nearby skyscrapers of Bangalore. But her job in Peenya, a dusty industrial suburb, is no less promising for India's future than the call centers and software firms that have transformed this region into a high-tech hub.

Ms. Kala works at a new garment export factory, part of a textiles sector that is booming, thanks to the expiration on Jan. 1 of a 30-year-old global system of textile quotas as well as ongoing Western trade disputes with China. India's textile exports to the US have jumped up to 36 percent this year.

Kala does not earn much for making jackets, which are sent to Gap Inc. Her annual pay is around $1,200. But the married mother of a 1-year-old child is happy simply to have paid employment. "I got this job three months ago," she says, smiling broadly as machines hum busily around her. "I like working here."

For many economists, new factories like this typify the low-end, labor- intensive manufacturing growth India needs if it is to better the lives of its 390 million low-skilled, impoverished citizens - those who still live on less than a dollar a day and who have been largely bypassed by India's high-end job growth.

"We provide jobs for the illiterate class," says Dinesh Hinduja, a director at Gokaldas Exports, which built the Peenya factory. "We have a training center where we take people straight from villages or farm land. It takes about a month to give them the skills they need. In a given week you might find 300 being trained."

Makes playing hardball with the Chinese easier.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 23, 2005 11:11 PM

A couple of decades ago, the garment manufacturers of New York City sent a delegation to China. They wanted to see what kind of competition they might be facing from China's textile and garment industry. The delegation came back dejected, reporting that Shanghai alone had 250,000 expert tailors. Of course, they were right to be depressed. Today, the garment industry in New York is in its death throes. For example, where more than 20,000 seamstresses once worked in hundreds of garment factories in New York's Chinatown, there are now fewer than 10% still in business.

History, though, plays funny games. Now it's China's turn. The only remaining question is, when will garment manufacturers from China visit India?

Posted by: X at October 24, 2005 10:51 AM

The delegation was right about one thing. The Chinese have expert tailors and the garments they send us are far superior to those we can make ourselves or are available from other emerging countries.

Let's enjoy it while it lasts because soon enough they'll realize we'll be satisfied with far less quality for a lot more money.

Posted by: tefta at October 24, 2005 12:49 PM
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