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Pakistan’s Textile Sector to Face Shortage of 400,000 Skilled Workers

Pakistan’s value-added textile sector is already facing a shortage of at least 40,000 skilled workers, and the government’s plans for new industrial parks could bring that deficit to nearly 400,000.

At a meeting with the visiting delegation of Turkish International Cooperation Agency (TIKA) in Lahore last week, the Pakistan Readymade Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (PRGMEA) noted the country’s needs, saying 20,000 workers are wanted in Karachi, 10,000 in Lahore, and 5,000 each in Faisalabad and Sialkot, according to Pakistan’s The Express Tribune.

Pakistan has set out to establish Qauid-e-Azam Apparel Park in Sheikhupura and Garment City in Faisalabad, two considerable industrial plots in the country to aid in the industry’s development and to capitalize on growth gained from the recent EU-granted Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) Plus status, which allows the nation duty free access to European markets.

Once these locales have been established, the sector’s skilled labor requirements could reach 400,000 people annually, the Tribune noted, and Pakistan must train new and existing workers if they are to accommodate future challenges and demand.

During last week’s meeting, Turkey’s TIKA members agreed to aid Pakistan in training its textile laborers.

Mustafa Giray Tezel, country coordinator for TIKA, said, “Turkey will cooperate in upgrading the textile curricula in addition to providing experts and master-trainers to improve overall skills and expertise of the Pakistani workforce,” according to the Tribune.

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Turkey, a candidate country for EU membership, said it would arrange for its own experts to train Pakistani workers in a move to meet the needs of its textile units, especially those engaged in exporting to European countries.

“Garment manufacturers see a large scope of growth for the textile industry after the EU’s trade concessions and growth could be 100% by 2016, but there is no roadmap in place to produce professionals that could be absorbed by the industry,” according to the Tribune.

PRGMEA’s North Zone vice chairman Jawwad Chaudhry said Pakistan’s capitalization on the GSP Plus trade opportunity would largely depend on incorporating high-tech manufacturing equipment and training a workforce that totals nearly 10 million across the country. Chaudhry added that the Pakistan government needs to have a mechanism for developing the industry and its workers, and to help them learn more about fashion design so the country can firmly establish itself as a supplier to the EU.

According to the Tribune, fashion apparel will be Pakistan’s key to making inroads with the European markets. Pakistan is heavily reliant on its garment industry, as 40 percent (2.5 million) of the country’s skilled and semi-skilled workers are currently engaged in the sector.