Dr Bilesha Weeraratne Highlights the Impact of Recent Policy Measures on Migrant Remittances

08 – 10 February 2023

The COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing economic crisis in Sri Lanka have altered much of the country’s migration and remittance dynamics. Although the decline in migrant worker departures due to the pandemic from 2020 to 2021 began to rise in 2022, IPS Research Fellow Dr Bilesha Weeraratne notes that achieving a corresponding increase in remittances has been a challenge. She was speaking at the conference on ‘Movements of People and Migration Regimes’ organised by the Research Programme on International Migration, Kerala.

Dr Weeratne discussed the impact of recent policy measures on improving migrant remittances in Sri Lanka – including relaxing the Family Background Report (FBR) policy, instituting a five-year no-pay leave policy for state employees to seek foreign employment and introducing electric vehicle import permit.  She emphasised that reducing child age within the FBR policy relaxation is likely to have a minimal direct impact on worker departures. The other two components of the FBR policy change – lowering migrant workers’ eligible age for labour migration and introducing a simplified FBR form for women without children, are likely to have a larger direct and indirect influence on increasing departures. She also expressed concerns about the effectiveness of the no-pay leave policy, citing its applicability to specific occupations, the possibility of skills sorting among beneficiaries, and existing loopholes for corruption. Further, she noted that the electric vehicle permit was only available to above-average migrant workers, excluding average migrant workers from benefiting.