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Sans Indian workers, Saudi jewelry markets struggling to survive
Wednesday February 5, 2014 1:07 PM, News Network

Lack of skilled Indian workers has forced around 400 jewelry workshops to close its doors, with 100 struggling to survive, investors here say.

The spike in gold prices, absence of regulations and the entry of new traders had seen the sector grow to over 500 factories and workshops, they said.

Abdulghani Al-Muhanna, chairman of the gold and jewelry committee at the Eastern Province Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said most of the closed workshops had employed illegal workers, and had sought to benefit from high gold prices in recent years, a report in Arab News said.

"We now have 100 gold workshops that employ about 5,000 foreign workers, but there are very few skilled workers in the industry following the Labor Ministry's decision to reduce the quota to 40 percent," Arab News quoted Abdulghani Al-Muhanna as saying.

He said this was "insufficient" because of the high demand for skilled workers. "The nature of the gold and jewelry sector is different from other sectors. It needs skilled professional workers, otherwise investors and merchants will have to depend on neighboring countries."

Al-Muhanna welcomed the ministry's campaign to rectify the local labor market because it had driven out illegal operators, but said the government should now allow legal businesses to recruit more staff.

Khaled Al-Amoudi, a member of the national committee for precious metals and gems at the Saudi Council of Chambers, said Indian workers are sought after in the local industry because of their skills.

"It is very difficult to find skilled workers in the gold industry," said Al-Amoudi. He said the labor ministry has not yet responded to the grievances of investors.

An investor in the gold market, who preferred anonymity, said the sector is facing many other challenges including higher customs tariffs on equipment, delays caused by inspections, trading of fake and poor quality gold, and illegal workers in the industry.

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