Sri Lanka apparel makers struggle to find workers

March 5, 2008 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s key clothing industry is rolling out a publicity blitz to attract shop floor workers to fill nearly 12,000 vacancies in plants across the island, industry officials said. A 280,000-dollar campaign will hit the local airwaves this week, as a team of recruiters and animators target 150 rural villages to attract young girls to join factories to help cut and sew clothes.

“Over 90 percent of the industry is in the hands of women from machine operators to executives,” said Sandya Salgado, CEO of Ogilvy Outreach, the advertising agency that is pushing out the six-month promotional campaign.

“These young girls have in the past earned money to send their siblings to school, build houses for their parents and generally uplift the living standards of their families,” she said.

Sri Lanka’s 3.5 billion dollar garment industry is vital to the economy of the country, already wracked by over three-decades of bloody ethnic civil war which has slowed growth.

More than half of Sri Lanka’s annual seven billion dollars worth of export earnings come from clothing and the industry employs nearly one million of the nation’s 20 million people.

“We currently