Surat’s diamond industry is facing severe manpower crunch at a time when demand for cut and polished diamonds from the US, China and other markets is regaining momentum lost during the global recession of 2008-09.
“At present, we are facing a shortage of around 25% of skilled workers,” said Dinesh Navadia, president, Surat Diamond Association (SDA). “For example, in my own factory Tiku Gems, 500 workers are working against the required 650.”
This shortage will worsen if the increase in the supply of rough diamond goes up, said Chandrakant Sanghavi, head, Sanghavi Exports, one of the largest firms in Surat. “There is a slight shortage now but it can become acute if supply of raw stones goes up.”
Most units in Surat were operating at half their capacity at the height of the recession in early 2009 when 300,000–400,000 people lost their jobs. “The main reason of shortage is that during recession large number of workers shifted to textiles and other industries. We will have to woo them back with higher salary,” said Navadia.
At present, the average wage of skilled worker is R8,000-14,000 depending on work profile. “We will have to revise wages in order to get people work in the sector,” Navadia said.
During April-October 2010, polished diamonds exported from Surat rose 57% to R68,000 crore against R45,000 crore last year, according to the Gems and Jewellery Export Promotion Council. Gems and jewelry exports are a leading foreign exchange earner for India and accounts for over 10% of the country’s total exports.