How Can we Create More and Better Jobs in Sri Lanka? – What the Public had to Say
Creating more and better jobs is an emerging challenge for the Sri Lankan economy, and is an issue that concerns a diverse group of stakeholders in the country. Following a recent panel discussion on “More and Better Jobs” hosted by the IPS and the World Bank, we decided to seek the views of a wider community on this subject, by creating an innovative online platform on Google Moderator (http://www.google.com/moderator/#16/e=1ef771) where people from across the country and beyond could join the discussion by posting their ideas and comments online, as well as voting on others. We asked the online community – “How can we create more and better jobs in Sri Lanka?”, and we received over three dozen valuable ideas, at the time of writing this article.
Among the diverse range of views expressed entrepreneurship and the development of the SME (Small and Medium Enterprises) sector proved to be quite a popular stance among many. The general consensus among those who held this view was that small enterprises need to be encouraged and supported as it will continue to generate more employment opportunities as the business grows. Listed below are a few of these comments.
“Creating more jobs would mean creating more job creators – Sri Lanka must focus on breeding young entrepreneurs who can start and grow businesses, and start providing more jobs” - Sheran, Colombo
“Creating market linkages – there are many innovative and talented entrepreneurs. Many are not aware of products and services that are in demand and the expected standard of quality and pricing. Too much quality=higher price. Poor quality=no demand” – DS, Colombo
“May be Sri Lanka should create youth more suitable for innovative jobs and train them for self-employment also. The general attitude in Sri Lanka that the government should provide jobs to everybody especially to graduates should change.” – Deep, Maldives
“If SME fail, it is a shame. No appreciation. No proper guidance to them even in Sri Lanka. It depends completely a person’s talent. How can this lead to expansion to a larger firm with more jobs or else quality jobs. Need to think in that angle.” – Sira, Sri Lanka
“The authorities are toughest on small businesses and need to loosen up! Businesses at the very least provide employment which should be encouraged. Only once we reach full employment should the calibre of these businesses be refined.” - Ishan, Colombo
“Stop thinking Wal-mart, start thinking game-kade. Small businesses employing a few people are a good place to start.” – Ishan, Colombo
Another key area through which Sri Lanka could create more quality employment opportunities is through creating a more conducive business environment. This is not only useful to domestic businesses but it will also attract foreign investment into the country. Many of the comments received indicated that this was quite a popular opinion among the public.
“Unemployment might be low, but Sri Lanka still needs to create ‘better’ quality jobs. For this we need the right kind of investments. This can be done by creating a ‘better’ business environment.” – BB, Kandy
“In addition to setting up, and putting in place the right infrastructure, educational system and governance; Sri Lanka must make sure it easy to start a business, hire and fire workers, enforce a contract and obtain credit http://bit.ly/yob34G” - Shaad Hamid, Oxford
“Access to Finance – Entrepreneurs as well as small enterprises need funds to see their ideas being converted to results. Often, they find it extremely hard to source funds as banks are not too keen on exposing themselves to these sectors.” – DS, Colombo
Other responses pointed towards addressing the root causes of unemployment in Sri Lanka. Many felt that the country’s education system is the underlying reason for many of current employment challenges and therefore, is in dire need of reform.
“1. Better pay for good teachers. Focus on rural areas. Offer incentives to those teachers willing to relocate. 2. Update the curriculum and use technology to deliver it. 3. Regulate tuition classes – teachers’ no. 1 responsibility must be to schools” – Anton Padmasiri, London
“Education wise, eliminate the Non value adding curricula and gear the students with commercially viable knowledge. Also, if not from the start of students’ education, at a latter stage even, introduce English as the compulsory medium of education.” – Divanke, Colombo
“Creation of better jobs through building up a skilled labour force. Government and private sector providing skill development to youth. More of skilled youth would encourage the creation of more of better jobs.” – Nadeesha.g, Colombo
Apart from the popular sentiments listed above, other responses covered a wide range of views that delve into topics like the need to change attitudes, encouraging more female participation and focus on innovation, for example.
“More youth need to see vocational training as a viable and “respectable” option if they don’t get in to uni. This will help them be better geared to the job opportunities that will become available in a growing Sri Lankan economy” -Avinash, Wattala
“Need to create conducive work environments for women to participate and excel in the labor force – flexi work hours, childcare support, anti-harassment policies etc…” – DiliPeiris, Sri Lanka
“The current bottle neck is at research and development in science, technology and engineering fields. There are some inventions with potential to conquer the global market, but no one wants to bring those to the market as a useful finished product.” – AVRC, Colombo
As is clear from this online engagement, there is an abundance of good ideas on how Sri Lanka can create more and better jobs. However, the challenge lies in developing innovative solutions, and a firm focus on proper implementation. It is now up to policymakers and bureaucrats to engage in a constructive dialogue on these issues with the wider public.