Fiji’s garment industry suffers acute shortage of skilled manpower

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The Textile, Clothing and Footwear Council of Fiji hopes to see some new players in the garment industry in the year 2017. Presently, there are more than 40 garment factories in the country. On the council’s expectations for this year, TCF president Kaushik Kumar said that they also expect exports for stable growth and have plans to explore new markets in the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG). MSG is an intergovernmental organization, composed of the four Melanesian states of Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, and the Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front of New Caledonia.

Figure: An instagram image of Fiji Fashion Week.
Figure: An instagram image of Fiji Fashion Week.

Fiji’s garment industry has been started export after 1987 based on several preferential trading arrangements. It achieved a great early growth and by 1997 in 10 years of its start it surpassed sugar for being the highest export of the country.

The garment factories of Fiji are trying to get worker, so that they advertised for a number of positions ranging from machinist to other garment factory workers. As some factories do experience an increased demand in orders in the new year and in order to meet delivery deadlines they suffer acute shortage of skill manpower. During the annual leave around the Christmas and New Year period a number of staff go back to their home towns and quite a few of them do not come back when factories reopen after the leave period. Some workers return after one or two months, therefore factories has to find substitute staff members while, some staff move on to other jobs.

An Oxfam report on the Fiji’s garment industry mentioned that “The sector has struggled to mature in terms of becoming an efficient and sustainable industry. Its reliance on preferential trade agreements which gave rise to rapid growth has masked its inability to value-add to products and develop key markets outside of the region. Even government and owners themselves appear to be going cold: a number of interviewees remarked to author that they felt the industry was either stagnating or, worse still, dying.”

However the garment sector of Fiji has been critical for the country because of its role in economic growth, employment creation and foreign investment. The Oxfam report mentioned further that “There are around 15,000, mostly women, still employed in the garment industry and their incomes are estimated to affect the lives of some 80,000 people, or 20percent of all urban households.”

Finding skilled staff remains a challenge in textile and garment industry, as in other industries. This shows that there is a demand for skilled workers in Fiji. However, the industry has had a stable period and factories affected by Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston are doing okay as well, said Kaushik Kumar.

For many visitors Fiji being the paradise in the earth, is trying to achieve importers attention for their manufactured products. However there remain numerous challenges in terms of beings sustainable and competitive.

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