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Helping hand: Govt to tweak labor rules for electronics firms

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Suitable amendments are expected in the areas of industrial housing at the factory premises, besides a change in working pattern and over-time payments.

To scale up the manufacture of electronics and set up factories employing over 35,000-40,000 workers with a large component of women, the Ministry of Electronics and IT (Meity) has identified three key areas where labor regulations need to be modified. Suitable amendments are expected in the areas of industrial housing at the factory premises, besides a change in working pattern and over-time payments.

Currently, there are very few factories in the country that employ a workforce of over 35,000 and none in the electronics sector. However, since global companies like Apple, Samsung, and the likes are now scaling up production under the production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme to make the country a hub for global exports, the key amendments are necessary. Officials said the changes are also required so that women can be employed in larger numbers on the shop floor in electronics manufacturing, something not prevalent in other manufacturing units like automobiles.

Official sources said that a major change in labor laws are not required but only some adjustments are needed so it should not be difficult. For instance, if a workforce of over 35,000-40,000 are to be employed in electronics manufacturing units, with a large chunk among them being women, then housing needs to be provided at the industrial premises. If the same is not done then the workers need to be ferried to and fro every day plying large number of buses. Further, there could be safety issues for women. Currently, making dormitories for workers in the industrial premises is not permitted under the laws and therefore Meity is in discussions with the labor ministry to make suitable amendments.

Similarly, there are the issues of working hours and shifts. The idea is to make two shifts of 12 hours (6 am to 6 pm & 6 pm to 6 am) four days a week, against the current norm of an 8-hour shift, five days a week. This way the total number of working hours in a week remains the same but women can work in night shifts. If working shifts are changed then the overtime work payments etc also need to be changed and aligned with the new norms, officials said.

Industry sources said that these changes are required to scale up domestic electronics manufacturing to $ 300 billion worth of goods, from $ 67.3 billion in FY21. According to a joint report by Meity and India Cellular and Electronics Association (ICEA), the target is for a ten-fold jump in electronics products exports to over $ 120 billion in 2025-26 from $ 10.6 billion in 2020-21.

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