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S Africa aims to patch up threadbare clothing industry

S Africa aims to patch up threadbare clothing industry

CAPE TWON: South Africa is fighting to revive its frayed clothing industry, once a crucial provider of jobs in a country suffering from high unemployment, as a flood of cheap imports forces local factories to shutter and lay off workers. Once the economic lifeblood of many small regional towns, the abundance of cheaper products from China has led to the loss of nearly two-thirds of the sector’s jobs over the past two decades.

After being employed for 22 years we were informed that the factory would close down in eight weeks,” said Vimla Padayachee, 46, who lost her job three years ago. The clothing factory in Verulam, north of the port city of Durban, shut down after years of battling low demand for its products. “A person of my age is not likely to get another job again, and so are my colleagues,” she said. The former seamstress is one of thousands of clothing sector workers who have been made redundant, in a country where official unemployment is nearly 30 per cent.

The dire situation forced the government to intervene while business has called for a radical policy overhaul to stem the crisis.

Inside a bustling factory in Maitland near Cape Town, workers bowed in front of rows of whirring sewing machines, stitching at a brisk pace to fulfil daily orders from a local chain store.