Kamal Kant, a 42-year-old goldsmith at one of India’s leading branded jewellery manufacturing unit in Coimbatore, lost his job this month.
“Since the last many decades I was working in this market and at this age, I know no other skill to earn bread,” said Kant.
He is not alone.
The uncertainty over easing import curbs on the yellow metal has created a cloud over the future of industry workers. The move to tighten curbs on gold imports has severely hit the industry.
According to estimates of All India Gems and Jewellery Trade Federation, 2,500,000 to 4,000,000 artisans, gold smiths, craftsmen, salesmen and retailers have lost their jobs since September.
“The job loss numbers are huge and in multi lakhs. Due to the shortage of gold in the market, most of our staff is sitting idle,” said K Srinivasan, managing director, Emerald Jewel Industry India Ltd, which claims to be South Asia’s largest manufacturing unit for gold-based jewellery and employs around 3,000 workers.
“Survival is getting difficult also because of steepness of gold prices,” said Ashok Minawala, member, All India Gems and Jewellery Trade Federation.
However, a large number of employees work in this industry on a contractual basis and with the easing of import curbs, workforce will be back to normal.
According to the industry body, the jewellery industry employs around 20 million workers.
Falling demand and sales curbs are prompting firms to slash headcounts.
“This is the worst phase of the market where we have lost 10 lakh workers,” said Mehul Choksi, managing director, Gitanjali Gems.
Sandeep Kulhalli, vice-president, retail and marketing, Jewellery Division, Titan Company Ltd, said: “This is an industry observation and we have no comments to make on this.”