The first Clothing Industry Summit came to a close on Wednesday. The summit ended with a commitment to continue efforts to protect jobs in the sector.
Rob Davies, Minister of Trade and Industry said that whatever is needed to protect the industry must be done and should be in the interest of industry development and to improve the local supplier base.
Ettienne Vlok, Director of Research Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers' Union, spoke with Azania Mosaka about the challenges facing the industry and what tools are available to government to ensure the protection of jobs.
Vlok says the impact of cheap imports on the local clothing industry has created a significant decline in the number of people being employed.
About 15 years ago we had approximately 200 000 people in the clothing textile industry and we're down to about 19 000 now.— Ettienne Vlok, Director of Research Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers' Union
Beyond the stats it means that a lot of people have been retrenched, a lot of factories have closed down.— Ettienne Vlok, Director of Research Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers' Union
Vlok adds that these numbers have contributed to the high numbers of unemployment and inequalities in South Africa. He says the industry is unique in many ways, one being that four out of every five workers are women compared to other manufacturing sectors.
If we grow this industry, we are able to contribute to gender equity.— Ettienne Vlok, Director of Research Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers' Union
Vlok also addresses the potential of major clothing and textile hubs in rural areas being able to create jobs. He says another major challenge is the inability to compete with countries such as China, which use ways to make their products much cheaper.
For more on the outcomes of the Clothing Industry Summit listen to the audio below: