Even if the revival has improved the prospects for the diamond business across the world, but the situation does not seem to be favouring the diamond polishing units as most of them are faced with either shortage of labour or increased cost in terms of wages.
Surat, a hub of diamond polishing industry in the World, has seen its diamond workforce shrinking with rapid pace as most of the migrants from other States turned their back to the glitters of industry and never returned due to improved employment opportunities in their respective states itself.
We are facing extreme shortage of labour for polishing work. And the scenario is expected to get worse if nothing positive comes through as there are no trainees to get an assurance of things coming to normal in some time. Overall there is about 30% shortage of workforce in the industry here, informed Damji Mavani, Secretary,Surat Diamond Association (SDA).
The industry employed roughly around 7.5 lakh worker prior to the global financial crisis that hit the local industry hard and units had to lay off thousands of workers. The officials from SDA estimate that as many as 30-35% of these workers were from outside Gujarat.
Most of these workers have found better employment opportunity in their respective States. Most of the workers Bihar Uttar Pradesh have made their exit from Surat due to increased industrial development in those States, maintained Mavani.
However, diamond polishing, being one of the highest skilled work can earn fortune for a select few skilled workers. There are good, skilled workers in the industry, who are paid anywhere between Rs.10,000 to Rs.1 lakh per month. But a semi-skilled lot of workers are more prone to make a shift in the troubled times, informed the official.
Considering the shortage of workforce, the industry is now looking at rising wages as well as setting up training centers at nearby villages to get required workforce. The SDA is now planning to set up a diamond polishing training center on the tribal-belt of the state, nearby Surat with public-private partnership.
Most of the companies and polishing units are reported to have started offering attractive schemes to woo workers. Some of the companies have either increased the wages by about 20%, or offer an assured annual pay hike with good perks. The mood is getting momentum and the pay scales may further improve in this industry, said an industry expert.
However, the industry is not only threatened with the labour shortage but with the loss of work too. According to Lalit Thumar, President, Gujarat Diamond Federation, the industry is faced with a challenge from countries like China and South Africa, who were said to be setting up polishing units on their own homeland.
It is true that China and South Africa is setting up polishing facilities at their homeland. Even some of the Indian diamond businessmen have started their units in these countries to benefit on cost differentiation. But one thing is sure that the quality of work that Gujarat produces, no other country can do it, said Thumar adding that diamond industry has received its glitter back with increased demand from overseas markets.