Labour migration from Sri Lanka has experienced many changes in recent years. Often, these are due to traditional reasons, such as oil price fluctuations and the slowing down of growth in destination economies; but another factor that could contribute to shifts in migration patterns is the transformations taking place in the world of work in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). This blog examines the influence of 4IR on changing patterns of labour migration from Sri Lanka.
Remittances make an indispensable contribution to the Sri Lankan economy. In 2018, the country received remittances of over USD 7 billion, accounting for 7.9% of the GDP. Often, remittances to Sri Lanka are attributed to the temporary migrant workers and viewed from a national perspective. Nevertheless, there are more dimensions to remittances. This blog, Bilesha Weeraratne, examines the nuances of receipt of remittances, at the household level in Sri Lanka.
In 2017, foreign exchange earnings from worker remittances to Sri Lanka stood at USD 7.2 billion, well ahead of other major foreign exchange earners, while they also covered 96% of the trade deficit. Despite a few fluctuations, worker remittances to Sri Lanka have been growing over the years. At the same time, many developments in ICT and FinTech have emerged to facilitate remittance transaction. Nevertheless, whilst simplifying and making remitting more efficient, these developments have made remittances even more complicated.
The Sri Lankan economy is transitioning from a mere labour sending economy into one that both sends and receives workers. The same employment opportunities, working conditions, and demand and supply conditions that necessitated outmigration of Sri Lankans workers is now attracting foreign workers in to Sri Lanka. In this new reality, Sri Lanka needs an updated Act to govern immigration in to the country, as well as a matching institutional framework to ensure efficient and foolproof operation of related activities. In formulating such an institutional framework, it is important to note that migration transition is a long, complicated, and dynamic phase.
While Sri Lanka’s 2018 Budget was applauded on many fronts, Bilesha Weeraratne argues that it has ignored an important aspect of the country’s economy: migrants’ remittances. Annually, over 250,000 Sri Lankans leave for foreign employment. Yet, the proposed Blue-Green Budget had no reference to remittances, nor the migrant workers who send them home. Does this mean migration and remittances are not priorities of the Sri Lankan economy?