Non-leather footwear, garments, and electronic hardware manufacturing are the three focus industries for the state to address the unemployment issue in rural and semiurban areas, says S Krishnan, Additional Chief Secretary, Government of Tamil Nadu.

He was speaking at a panel discussion on “The Challenges of Rebuilding a Resilient Economy in the Post-Pandemic Era,” organised by the Madras Institute of Development Studies, recently. 

Noting that Tamil Nadu is a 50 per cent urbanised State, Krishnan said this means the remaining 50 per cent is a rural economy, but the contribution of agriculture to the State GSDP is only 10 per cent. “So we need to find ways in which an improved economy is offered to the rural and semi-urban economies,” he added. 

He added that non-leather footwear, garments, and electronic hardware manufacturing are the sectors that do not require high levels of education, so even students who have completed class 10 or 12 can pick up and move forward. 

He also said that more than 40 per cent of the organised industrial labour force in the country is in Tamil Nadu, and the State has the largest female industrial labour force. Increasing female participation in these three sectors is the way forward, Krishnan added. 

Krishnan said there are non-leather footwear industries in 3–4 regions in the State, with each employing about 20,000–30,000 people. He said these factories are located within a 30–40 km radius and transform the whole rural economy in their proximity.

Footwear policy

The industry secretary said that through the recently launched “Footwear and Leather Products Policy 2022”, the State is hoping to have 20–25 such factories across Tamil Nadu within a 50-km radius.

For the 50 per cent urban population, Krishnan said the new jobs in the tech-oriented economy would be in the knowledge sectors and that policymakers should move up the value chain through artificial intelligence-led developments. 

Urban issues

Speaking on urban issues, Kala Sridhar, Head, Centre for Research in Urban Affairs, said it took a pandemic for us to appreciate the importance of cities and how migrants are dependent on cities for their livelihoods. She said the incidence of mass “reverse migration” during the pandemic also highlighted the need to integrate migrants well into their destination states during pandemic-like situations in the future.