Dr Nisha Arunatilake Discusses Women’s Access to Decent Work in Sri Lanka

6 May 2024

Participating in the latest episode of the ‘Econ-on-Mics’ podcast, IPS Director of Research Dr Nisha Arunatilake sheds light on the unique challenges faced by Sri Lankan women in accessing decent work. The episode moderated by IPS Research Fellow Dr Lakmini Fernando delves into the pivotal findings of a recent study focusing on context-specific barriers to women’s participation in decent jobs. The podcast series is a joint production of the International Economic Association’s Women in Leadership in Economics initiative and Women in Econ and Policy.

Dr Arunatilake highlights the need to focus on the quality of employment rather than merely quantifying female labour force participation. She notes that many Sri Lankan workers are employed in low-wage agricultural sectors outside the Western Province, lacking adequate social protection and exposed to various shocks. Enhancing these workers’ access to more productive and secure jobs is crucial for both individual welfare and economic growth.

Key insights from the study reveal that higher education and English literacy significantly improve women’s access to decent work, with graduates experiencing a 40-60% better chance of finding quality employment. Household dynamics, such as the presence of a male formal worker or an elder female to assist with domestic responsibilities, facilitate women’s access to better jobs. However, Dr Arunatilake notes that existing legal frameworks and social norms adversely affect women’s ability to participate in high-quality jobs.

Listen to the full episode here.

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