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Gold trade sees depressed sales, worker layoffs

By Aamir Shafaat Khan 2020-05-31
KARACHI: Gold traders have laidoff karigars(workers)and salesmen amid substantial decline in jewellery sales following the lockdown of markets all over the country to contain the spread of Covid19 since mid-March.

Gold shops reopened on May 11 after the lockdown was eased.

However, traders claim that sales of gold sets remain highly depressed due to the ban on large weddings and gatherings.

The one tola and 10-gram domestic gold prices on Saturday stood at Rs97,500 and Rs83,591, respectively, up by Rs300 and Rs258 compared to Friday, the All Sindh Saraf Jewellers Associaiton (ASSJA) said. World gold price went up by four dollar per ounce to $1,730 per ounce, the association added.

Talking to Dawn, gold trade stakeholders gave conflicting opinions regarding the actual number of layoffs at karkhana (workshops) and jewellery shops.Domestic gold prices have been rising on the back of soaring world market rates and rupee devaluation against the dollar in Pakistan.

President ASSJA Haji Haroon Rasheed Chand said some 15 per cent workers have been removed f rom karkhanay (workshops).

A small karkhana, where gold jewellery and other items are prepared, usually has less than 10 karigars (workers).

`Sales are subdued, at around five per cent. Almost all jewellery stores have cut down on the number of sales staff and karigar. For every five people working at a store, one or two have lost their jobs,` he said, adding that Karachi has over 5,000 jewellery shops.

`Many jobless karigar are now plying rickshaws on rent or have delved into home-based food supply business,` he added.

When asked if people are holding wedding events `secretly`, he said, `It is true that engagement and nikkah ceremonies are being held.

After nikkah at mosques and rukhsati, arrangements are made byfamilies to serve food at home.

Meanwhile, Chairman All Pakistan Jewellers Association (APJA) Mohammad Arshad claims that 30pc of karigars have lost jobs while the number of salesmen has been halved in most jewellery stores.

`Some jobless karigar bring home-cooked food to Sarafa Bazaar for on the spot sales,` he added.

When asked about marriages ceremonies, he said, `Coronavirus and the subsequent lockdown have proved to a blessing for many middle and low-income families who are now making arrangements of nikkah and rukhsati for their daughters by inviting less than 20 people and serving food at home.

`There is hardly 20pc business activity in the markets even though we are opening shops from 9am to 5pm. 10pc people arrive at shops to sell old gold pendants, rings and bangles as they are in dire need of cash since they lost jobs or has their salaries slashed,` he said.

Arshad added that online sales of gold jewellery are negligible as buyersprefer seeingthe setsinperson.