A Three-wheeled Attraction: An Analysis of Three-wheeler Drivers in Sri Lanka’s Labour Market

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Thisali De Silva

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January 2022

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Labour shortages in Sri Lanka have been inflicting high economic pressure on vital sectors of the economy, including manufacturing sector industries such as apparel and construction and service sector industries like tourism. The shortage of labour in industries such as construction is often attributed to the reluctance of youth to take up this type of employment, resulting in labour importation. Amidst these labour shortages, many young Sri Lankans have entered the labour market as three-wheeler drivers. This study – A Three-wheeled Attraction: An Analysis of Three-wheeler Drivers in Sri Lanka’s Labour Market – focuses on socio-economic and demographic characteristics of three-wheeler drivers and identifies the main factors that attract youth to the three-wheeler sector over employment in other industries. Why are young people drawn to three-wheeler driving? What is special about the sector? The answers to these questions can provide insights into some facets of the labour market challenges in Sri Lanka.

It has been suggested that three-wheeler drivers are the most efficient self-employers as they do not depend on the government for jobs. However, factors such as the high number of road accidents and complaints of undisciplined driving practices of three-wheeler drivers have impelled the need for regulation. Another major concern is the lack of interest among young people to obtain vocational training in other industries, thereby not acquiring skills that make them eligible for employment opportunities that are in demand. This paper argues that citizens should have the freedom to choose any occupation of their choice. Any attempts to lure workers to other prospective sectors should be carried out by making those sectors more attractive to the employees and the demands of the job market.