Gems and Jewelry sector in India has grown stupendously over the past few decades. The midstream value chain of the industry especially diamond processing (cutting and polishing) created ample business opportunities and jobs at least till some time back. India currently processes 7-8 out of 10 diamonds in the world but the employees in the sector are poorly paid.
According to a recent joint study by ASSOCHAM (The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India), a leading industry body and TARI (Thought Arbitrage Research Institute), workers in India’s Gems and Jewelry sector get an average salary of only INR 2.52 lakhs (~ USD 3,700) per anum, the lowest across any manufacturing industry in India.
According to ASSOCHAM-TARI study titled “Gems & Jewellery Indusry: Contributing to Make in India”, average salary for young workers across various industries like Pharma (INR 5.09 lakhs), Capital Goods (INR 4.94 lakhs), Electronics (INR 4.43 lakhs) etc. are much higher than that in Gems & Jewelry sector in India.
Safety standards, Health and Work condition issues
Moreover, the working conditions in the sector are dilapidated, with limited compliance with health and safety standards and inadequate working conditions. These issues have also been previously highlighted by RJC (Responsible Jewelry Council). Workers in Gems and Jewelry sector face prolonged and excessive exposure to lethal chemicals and gases, sometimes leading to lung cancer, kidney damage and lung tissue damage.
Lack of skill development in new technologies
Much of the players across the diamond cutting and polishing sector are unorganized, small-scale and are not equipped with latest cutting edge technologies and are used to work in old traditional manual methods. Besides, many of the workers lack training of working with high-end machines and software including laser cutting machines and other modern techniques. Such poor pay and work conditions have also led to acute labor shortage in the industry.
This is despite the fact that India’s Gems and Jewelry industry is one of the fastest growing sectors in the economy. According to the annual global summary report of KPCS, India was the largest importer of rough diamonds in 2015 in terms of volume, with a 37.77% share of global rough imports. Moreover, India’s online jewelry market is expected to touch USD 3.6 Bn, almost 20% of global market size, within next 3 years. Online jewelry retailers in India are increasing their marketing budgets to capture the expected increase in demand. Bluestone is going to spend INR 40 crore (~ USD 6 million) over next 12 months in marketing. While the diamond industry may be struggling, India’s Gem and Jewelry sector is doing better than others, but sadly its workforce is not.
Improvement suggestions by the study
The ASSOCHAM-TARI study suggests investments in skills development programs, vocational training institutes, safety kits including goggles, gas masks, gloves, lab coats etc. to reduce negative impact on worker’s health and improving the work conditions for higher efficiency, productivity and output and reducing labor turnover. Undoubtedly, India’s fastest growing Gems and Jewelry sector can do much better for its workforce.