January 20: Around 500 factories located in the Sunsari-Morang Industrial Corridor are facing a severe manpower crunch.
With youths involving themselves in foreign employment rather than domestic industries, the factories there require 10,000 skilled and semi-skilled laborers but have nowhere to source them. The condition is so dire that people are rejecting factory jobs even when the employers themselves go to their homes and offer attractive employment packages.
With improvements in the electricity supply and political stability, the factories say that they now want to focus on increasing productivity but are being held back in terms by a lack of human resource. Nearly 50,000 people are currently employed by the 500 factories of the corridor but the factory owners say that they need 20 to 25 percent more laborers for optimum production.
“On the one hand, we need more employees and on the other, the employees currently with us don’t have the desired ‘work ethic’,” complained Govinda Bajgain, chief executive officer (CEO) of Arihant Multifibres, Sonapur, and Duhabi. “And this is really affecting our daily output,” he added.
He reminisced the days when 20 to 50 people came to his desk daily to ask for a job. “Now, we offer a decent salary and daily transportation facilities for our staffers; but still we can’t attract new workers,” Bajgain said.
He further added, “Not only are we not able to attract new workers but even our existing staff members leave their jobs at the factory to go work abroad.” The factory has 4,600 workers.
Reliance Shipping Mill is another factory of Sunsari facing a similar lack of manpower. The factory employs 4000 workers but is still looking for more. Raghupati Jute Mills, located in Biratnagar employs 2,500 people but still requires 200 additional people on a daily basis.
Bhim Ghimire, president of Chamber of Industries Morang (CIM), said that the chronic shortage of skilled labor was making it difficult for industries to achieve their full productivity. “During festivals and harvesting season, factories can hardly maintain their regular three shifts,” he said. Prakash Mundada, president of Morang Merchants’ Association stated how factories have to hire unskilled individuals, invest time and resources to train them to a certain level but when it is time for them to perform, they leave for foreign jobs. He complained that this was a lose-lose situation for the factories.
Dr Mohan Chandra Ghimire, labor and human resources expert, informed that there was no need to go abroad for good jobs. “The starting pay of factory workers is Rs 13,400 which is a good salary compared to the past,” he said adding, “And with overtime and various allowances, the monthly income for a worker comes up to be around Rs 25,000.”
He further added, “Yet, people are still going for foreign employment even though the work is dirtier, more difficult and more dangerous and the pay is often equal or lesser to what they could have made in Nepal.” He attributed this to the prestige of foreign employment, “Today, foreign employment is less about money and more about following a trend in the society.” He said that the state needed to concentrate its efforts in informing the youths about the domestically available employment opportunities and prevent skilled labor from leaving the country.
Therefore, to get around the shortage of working men, the factories are now looking women to fulfill the labor gap. Arihant Multifibres has set up a separate working area for women and employs 2,200 women employees in three shifts, according to CEO Bajgain. Likewise, Reliance Mill also provides transportation facility and ensures a safe working environment to encourage more women to join its workforce, as informed by Deputy Vice-President of the mill Mahesh Pokharel. The mill has three shifts for women and employs a total of 1,600 women in its factory. Raghupati Jute Mills is also looking towards women as offering transportation and special packages for women who join their factory, according to Manager Shyam Acharya. He informed that Raghupati has 600 female employees. Acharya also stated that women presented a sustainable workforce and that industries should start adapt a more women-oriented approach in their employment practices