Many goldsmiths and artisans are leaving their job or migrating to India as the demand for gold ornaments falls and the wages decline.
The mass opt-out of the goldsmiths and artisans has put the country’s jewellery sector at risk.
Gold traders and goldsmiths said the number of gold users is gradually falling due to the rise in gold price and easy availability of cheaper gold-plated imitation jewellery and stone-made ornaments.
Besides, they said, the jewellery sector has been losing its customers as the price of gold is much higher in Bangladesh compared to international market as well as neighbouring India for lack of any national gold policy.
They said many jewellery shops at Tanti Bazar in the capital and different parts of the country have been closed over the last several years as the orders for gold ornaments have almost halved during the period, forcing many goldsmiths and artisans to switch to different other professions for livelihood.
According to Bangladesh Jewellery Samity, around 15,000 Sharna Shilpy (goldsmiths and artisans) were there only in Dhaka 7-8 years ago, but the figure has now come down to only 4000-5000.
Besides, nearly 350,000 people used to work as goldsmiths and artisans across the country 10 years back, but almost one third of them quit the profession over the period.
The Samity leaders also said around 10,000 traders are currently involved in jewellery sector across the country.
Talking to UNB, vice president of Bangladesh Jewellery Samity Enamul Hoque Dolan said a large number of skilled goldsmiths, who had been involved in the sector from generation to generation, have already changed their profession while many of them left the country looking for better jobs.
On one hand the gold users have been decreasing and many people now prefer to buy imported readymade ornaments on the other, Dolan said.
"We've information that many people are bringing gold ornaments from India through different illegal channels as the prices are lower there than in Bangladesh."
The Jewellery Samity leader thinks a well-thought-out national gold import and export policy is a must to protect the country's jewellery sector and ensure welfare of the goldsmiths.
General secretary of Sharna Shilpi Sramik Shangha Dinesh Chandra Paul said the goldsmiths and artisans are now passing through a very critical time for lack of adequate orders from customers for making ornaments.
"Many of them are turning into small vendors like nut and puffed rice, vegetable sellers changing their profession while many skilled ones are migrating to the neigbouring country for better wage and employment."
Replying to a question, he said the young generation is not showing interest in engaging in their traditional profession as it is losing charm due to poorer wages compared to other professions.
Dinesh, who used to employ around 80-100 goldsmiths at his jewellery factory 10 years back, has now only 12 workers due to drastic fall in demand for making gold ornaments.
Echoing Dinesh, Shipon Banik, owner of Shovo Jewellery at Tanti Bazar said though they have been in the business for generations, they are now facing a serious challenge to run it.
"We're now not getting sufficient orders from customers. We're also facing problem to get goldsmiths and artisans as they're moving onto other professions."
He also said he wants his children, who are now studying, to either do good jobs or engage in other profit-making business instead of jewellery one.
Shipon Banik said he has now only two goldsmiths at his jewellery factory though the number was 10 just five years ago.
Tanmoy Karmakra who has long been working at a jewellery shop at Baitul Mukarram Market said he is now receiving training to be a car driver as his current income by making ornaments is too little to support his five-member family.
Nikhil Jadob, who used to work as a goldsmith for the past 20 years at Tanti Bazar, has now started selling vegetables to support his family. "There is hardly any ornament making order these days."
"I engaged in this profession when I was just 12 years old. I used to earn Tk 10,000 to 12,000 a month barely 7-8 years back. But now it's difficult to earn even Tk 4,000 per month," he added.
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