Nisha Arunatilake has been a Research Fellow at IPS since 2000 and was appointed as the Director of Research in January 2018. She has extensive post-doctoral experience in conducting policy related economic research in labour market analysis, education, public finance and health. She heads the Labour, Employment and Human Resource Development unit at the IPS. Her work is published in both local and international journals, book chapters and reports.

She has collaborated with, and has been a consultant to different organizations, including the World Bank, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Asian Development Bank (ADB), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), United Nations Children’s’ Fund (UNICEF), Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI), and International Labour Organization (ILO) in numerous research studies. She was the lead author of the second National Human Development Report (2012) for Sri Lanka. She is a Research Associate of the Commitment to Equity (CEQ) Institute of the Tulane University of New Orleans, USA. She is also a Research Fellow of the Partnership for Economic Policy (PEP).

She has served in national level committees on labour, employment, human resource development, migration, health sector reform, and tobacco and alcohol policy formulation.

Nisha Arunatilake holds a BSc in Computer Science and Mathematics with summa cum laude from the University of the South, USA and an MA and PhD in Economics from Duke University, USA. All three of her degrees were fully funded by university grants.

Advisory work

South Asia Regional Reference Group on Responding Today for Tomorrow, UNICEF

Ministry of Labour Sub-Committee on Establishing a Social Security Fund

Standing Committee on Technical and Vocational Education and Training

Standing Committee on Higher Education

Standing committee on General Education

Prepared background reports on the budget for the Committee on Public Finance, Parliament

Committee on formulation of a ‘National Education Policy’ organised by NEC

Consultative Committee on Education Research Development, Ministry of Education

Standing Committee on Higher Education, National Education Commission, National Education Commission
Sri Lanka

Economic Policy Unit, Ceylon Chamber of Commerce
Sri Lanka

Research Supervision Committee, Ministry of Science, Technology and Research, Ministry of Science, Technology and Research
Sri Lanka

Member of the PEP Gender Committee of Partnership for Economic Policy

Advisory Panel to Recommend Measures to Restructure the Department of Census, DCS, Ministry of Economic Reforms and Public Distribution
Sri Lanka

Working Group on Social Sciences of the National Science Foundation
Sri Lanka

Committee for Upgrading National Labour Migration Policy, ILO
Sri Lanka

Working Group on Formulating the National Labour Migration Policy, ILO
Sri Lanka

Economic Policy Steering Committee of the Chamber of Commerce (CCC)
Sri Lanka

Core Working Group for Pension Reforms
Formed by State Minister Mr. Harsha de Silva of the Ministry of National Policies and Economic Affairs
Sri Lanka

Standing Committee on Higher Education
Sri Lanka
National Education Commission (NEC)

Develop a Strategic Road Map for improving female labour force participation in the private sector in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
National Human Resource Development Council
Committee Member
Report writing, contributing to discussions on policy recommendations

Expert Group for Formulating the Revised National Migration Policy for Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
ILO/ Ministry of Foreign Employment
Committee Member
Contributing to discussions on policy recommendations

National Policy on General Education in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
National Education Commission
Committee Member
Report writing, contributing to discussions on policy recommendations

Committee on Improving Female Labour Force Participation Rate
Sri Lanka
Prime Minister’s office
Committee Member
Report writing, contributing to discussions on policy recommendations

The National Human Resources and Employment Policy (NHREP) for Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Labour Department
Report writing, contributing to discussions on policy recommendations. Represented the NHREP Steering Committee at the National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC) meeting to ratify and validate the revised policy.

Draft a white paper on pensions reforms
Sri Lanka
Department of Pensions
Committee Member
Provided technical support

Represented IPS at the Advisory Committee Meeting on Labour Migration
Sri Lanka
Ministry of Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare.
Committee Member
Provided technical support

Steering Committee for Formulation of a National Human Resources and Employment Policy for Sri Lanka.
2011 to 2012
Sri Lanka
Government of Sri Lanka
Committee Member

Represented IPS at the National Data Committee
2010 to present
Sri Lanka
Department of Census and Statistics
Committee Member
Provided technical support

Drafting Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights of the National Action Plan for Promotion & Protection of Human Rights
2009 to 2010
Sri Lanka
Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights

National Steering Committee for Employable Disables, Department of Labour.
Sri Lanka
Department of Labour
Committee Member
Provided technical support

National Working Group on Economic Reintegration of Ex-Combatants into Civilian Life
Sri Lanka
Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process (SCOPP) and the Ministry of Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare
Committee Member
Provided technical support

National Action Plan on Youth Employment in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Youth Employment Network.
Committee Member
Participated in the formulation of the action plan

Technical Working Group to Develop a Health Sector Strategy for Sri Lanka
2002 t0 2003
Sri Lanka
Ministry of Health
National Consultant in the Health Sector Finance
Provided technical support

National Plan for Labour Market Reforms
Sri Lanka
Ministry of Policy Development subcommittee on Employment, Labour, Productivity and Human Resources Development.
Committee Member
Provided technical support

Presidential Committee for Tobacco and Alcohol Policy
Sri Lanka
Government of Sri Lanka
Economic Adviser
Provided technical support


Ronconi, L., Arunatilake, N., Perez, J. and Emini, C.A., (2021). Assessing the Participation of Researchers from Lower-Middle-Income Countries in Economic-Development-Policy Debates. Nairobi: Partnership for Economic Policy.

Arunatilake, Nisha (2020), ‘Systemic Issues Affecting Female Labour Force Participation in Sri Lanka’ in Flatt, Emma J., Vani Swarupa Murali and, Silvia Tieri (Eds.), Voices on South Asia: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Women’s Status, Challenges and Futures, World Scientific Publishing, Singapore.

Arunatilake, N., Abayasekara, A., Kaunanayake, C., & Fernando, D. (2020). Facilitating Night Work for Women in Sri Lanka. Colombo: Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka.

Arunatilake, N., Weerasekera, H. and Thilanka, C. Elasticity Estimates for Cigarettes in Sri Lanka. Colombo: Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka.

Arunatilake, Nisha (2019), ‘Economic Transformations for Better Lives Through Better Jobs’ in Weerakoon, D. and Jayasuriya, S. (Eds),’ Managing Domestic and International Challenges and Opportunities in Post-Conflict Development – Lessons from Sri Lanka’, Singapore: Springer.

Arunatilake, Nisha and Karunanayake, Chathurga (2019) ‘Future of Work in Sri Lanka’, in Sri Lanka: State of the Economy, (Ed.) Dushni Weerakoon, IPS

Sri Lanka Tea Industry in Transition: 150 Years and Beyond, Wijayasiri, Janaka, Nisha Arunatilake and Saman Kelegama (2018)

Better Schools for Better O-Level Results in Sri Lanka, by Ashani Abayasekara and Nisha Arunatilake, November 2017

Arunatilake, N. Jayawardena, P. (2017). Accounting for Social Effects of Tax Reforms. In S. Kelegama, Tax Policy in Sri Lanka, (pp. 213 – 238). Colombo: Institute of Policy Studies.

Arunatilake, N. Inchauste, G., Lustig, N. (2017). The Incidence of Taxes and Spending in Sri Lanka. In G. Inchauste, & N. Lustig, The Distributional Impact of Taxes and Transfers – Evidence from Eight Low- and Middle-Income Countries, (pp. 267 – 293). Washington, D.C: The World Bank.

Challenges of reintegration. In S. Irudaya Rajan, South Asia Migration Report, (pp 267-291). Oxon: Routledge.

Integrating Migrant Workers in Labour Market Participation Analysis.

Arunatilake, N. (2015). Impact of Migration and Remittances on Social Mobility in Sri Lanka. In T. Kim, & A. Mulakala, Social Mobility: Experiences and Lessons from Asia (pp. 129-146). Sejong-si: Korea Development Institute.

World Bank (2015). Sri Lanka Public Expenditure Review – Sri Lanka, Pearl of Asia:Spending for Growth and Poverty Reduction in a Middle Income Country, World Bank.

Samarakoon, S., & Arunatilake, N. (2015). Extending adequate pensions for all – where are the gaps? Colombo: Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka.

Nisha Arunatilake, Gabriela Inchauste, Nora Lustig, 2014, ‘The incidence of Taxes and Spending in Sri Lanka’, Washington D.C.: World Bank.

Jayaratne, S., Perera, N., Gunasekera, N., & Arunatilake, N. (2014). Returning Home: Experiences and Challenges – The Experience of Returnee Migrant Workers of Sri Lanka. Colombo: Institute of Policy Studies.

Arunatilake, N., Dissanayake, E., & Dharmawardene, P. (2014). A Framework for Classifying Science, Technology and Innovation Workers in Sri Lanka. Colombo: The Coordinating Secretariat for Science and Technology.

Arunatilake, N., Inchauste, G., & Lustig, N. (2014). The Incidence of Taxes and Spending in Sri Lanka. Washigton D.C.: World Bank.

Arunatilake, N., & Jayawardena, P. (2013). School Funding Formula’s in Sri Lanka. Paris: UNESCO.

Arunatilake, N., Jayawardena, P., & Wijesinha, A. (2012). Tax Reforms in Sri Lanka – Will a Tax on Public Servants Improve Progressivity? Laval: Partnership for.

Nisha Arunatilake, Priyanka Jayawardena, Neluka Gunasekara, Sunimalee Madurawala, Shanika Samarakoon ” Health Inequalities, Work and Access to Social Security of Informal Workers” Report to FLASCO-CHILIE

Ranasinghe, Athula, Arunatilake, Nisha, and Dunusinghe, Priyanga (2015) “Investment in Formal Education in Sri Lanka”, Background report for the National Education Commission’s 2015 Education Reforms study.

Nisha Arunatilake, Gabriela Inchauste, Nora Lustig, 2014, ‘The incidence of Taxes and Spending in Sri Lanka’, World Bank.


Panelist at the Webinar on ‘Combatting Health Inequalities Through Tobacco Control: Domestic and Global Perspectives’

Organised by CRUK London for Global Cancer Week
14 November 2023

Women’s Decent Work, Poverty and Nutrition: Multi-Regional Insights

Workshop on Poverty, Hunger and Jobs: Pandemic Update and Recovery Prospects
28 June 2023

Panelist at the High-Level Launch of Sri Lanka’s Multidimensional Poverty Index report

Department of Census and Statistics
28 April 2023

Keeping the Home Fires Burning- Family Responsibility in Addressing the Current Economic Crisis in Sri Lanka

Organised by Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA) Women’s Health Committee
17 March 2023

High-Level Launch of the Responding Today for Tomorrow (RTFT)

Organised by UNICEF South Asia
24 February 2023, Kathmandu, Nepal

Winners and Losers of ‘Work from Home’ in Sri Lanka

Capacity Building Workshop
23 March 2022

Speaker at ‘Multilateral Development Finance: Supporting an Inclusive and Sustainable Recovery in South Asia’ 

Organised by the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
2 December 2022

Presentation on ‘Successful advocacy for tobacco tax increases in a politically centralised high-salience policy context – lessons from Sri Lanka’ at World Cancer Congress

Session organised by Kivu International (United Kingdom)
25 August 2022

Speaker at 2022 PEP Annual Conference, Addressing context-specific barriers to women’s participation in decent work

Organised by Partnership for Economic Policy (PEP)
8 June 2022

Speaker at South Asia Economic Summit, Parallel Session II: Health for all and Digital Health Initiatives

Organized by Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS)
20 April 2022

Speaker at ‘Digital Genesis’

Organised by Sri Lanka Association for Software Services Companies (SLASSCOM)
28 October 2021

Panelist at the discussion on ‘Participation of Southern Researchers in Development Economics Fora’ at ‘Evidence for Development: What Works Global Summit’.

Organised by the Global Development Network
18 October 2021

Presentation on ‘Public-Private Partnerships’ at the South Asia Regional Learning Seminar

Organised by UNESCO
5 October 2021

Presentation at the Launch of Tilli App for Teaching Children Emotional Intelligence

Organised by the Dialog Foundation
1 October 2021

Presentation on the need for greater involvement of researchers from the Global South in development policy discussions.

At the Annual Conference of the Partnership for Economic Policy on the theme Power in proximity: For greater participation of local researchers in development policy debates

4 June 2020

Presentation on ‘Identifying Regional Priorities for a Fair Recovery From COVID-19 in South Asia – Sri Lankan perspective’

At Forum on ‘Identifying Regional Priorities for a Fair Recovery From COVID-19 in South Asia’
Organised by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) and Southern Voice
19 May 2021

State of the Economy 2020 Webinar

IPS’ State of the Economy 2020 – Report Launch.
Importance of macro management to improve resilience to adverse shocks.
14 October 2020

Southern Countries’ response to Covid-19

SDPI-IPS-SANEM-PEP Webinar organised by IPS, Sri Lanka, SDPI- Pakistan and SANEM- Bangladesh
30 September 2020

Fiscal and regulatory mechanisms for promoting healthy diet in Sri Lanka

Importance of customising policies to suit the institutional and cultural contexts
Bangladesh and the Institute of Policy Studies, Sri Lanka
29 September 2020

Training programme on Research Methodology

Training programme on Research Methodology for education professionals
Organised by Ministry of Education
16 September 2020
National Institute of Education

Fiscal policies and regulations to promote healthy diets in Sri Lanka

Importance of finding effective means of controlling the food environment to improve diets
South Asia, Center for Law and Policy Affairs, Bangladesh
31 August 2020

Effects of Covid-19 on Education in Sri Lanka: Facing the New Normal

Sri Lanka can learn lessons from other countries to ensure better coverage in education delivery during lockdown
Sri Lankan LKYSPP (The Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy) Chapter AlumIdeas
22 August 2020

Detriments of tobacco smoking for development of an online course for doctors

Online-training for doctors organised by CCT and ADIC
14 August 2020

Roadmap to Post Covid-19 Economic Recovery

Chamber of Commerce
12 June 2020

Parliamentary Election and COVID-19 in Sri Lanka

Managing the pandemic and working towards macro-economic stability.
Indian Council of World Affairs
09 June 2020

Economic perspective of COVID -19 with a focus on Gender

Development Partners Secretariat Gender Working group meeting, UNFPA
15 April 2020

Getting women into the workforce in Sri Lanka

South Asia women in the Workforce Week. Moderated conversation with Idah Pswarayi Riddihough, World Bank Country Director, Sri Lanka Office.
World Bank South Asia Regional Gender team in collaboration with Sri Lanka Gender Platform
04 March 2020

Training of parliament researchers

Provided technical support and training for members of the Parliament Research Unit at the Planning and Management Workshop.
DAI Washington
25 February 2020
Taj Hotel, Colombo

Panel on ‘Growth, and Equity – Achieving SDGs in South Asia in 4IR’

12th South Asia Economic Summit (SAES XII)

26 September 2019
Organized by IPS
Hilton Colombo, Sri Lanka

Presentation on ‘Improving Labour Force Participation of Low Skilled Women’

WIDER Development Conference on Transforming Economies for Better Jobs

Organized by UNU-WIDER
11-13 September 2019
Bangkok, Thailand

Presentation on ‘Gender Implications of Draft Act on Employment’

Organized by Ministry of Labour and Trade Union Relations
LKI, Sri Lanka

Keynote Speaker at a Forum on ‘Bringing Skilled Foreign Workers into Sri Lanka; Is it a Viable Option?’

Organized by National Human Resource Development Council, Institute of Charted Accountants of Sri Lanka and the International Chamber of Commerce

02 October 2018
Institute of Charted Accountants of Sri Lanka

Guest Speaker at Stakeholder Conference on the Establishment of a National Labour Market Information System

Organized by the Department of Manpower and Employment

18 September 2018
Waters’ Edge, Battaramulla

Chaired the session on “Labour Market Reforms

At the Economic Freedom Country Audit
Organized by the Advocata Institute
Nisha Arunatilake
12 October 2017

Global Towers Hotel, Colombo

“Where is the data?”

Presented by Nisha Arunatilake
At the “Realising Gender Goals in the SDGs: Role of the Media”
Organized by UN Women

Taj Samudra

Education Research Institutes Network (ERI-Net) Regional Expert Meeting on Harnessing the Power of Research to Achieve SDG4 – Education 2030
Organized by UNESCO Bangkok, Thailand
Nisha Arunatilake

24/11/2016- 25/11/2016
Bangkok, Thailand

Was a member of “the People Management Colloquium” panel  at “The National Summit on People Management: ‘Peopling’ for National Wealth- 19/10/2016

Panel Discussion and launch of book:Globalisation, employment and education in Sri Lanka, Organized by the British Council, Taj Samudra. 3/5/2016

Integrating migrant workers into the labou rmarket statistics of Sri Lanka, presented at a round table discussion at ILO. 6/5/2016

National Pensions Day Symposium 2015, Department of Pensions, SLFI, 8/10/2015

The Sixth Republic of Korea-SAARC Partnership Seminar

 “Development Cooperation in Public Health

Development Cooperation in Public Health

Participated and presented paper at the 6th Republic of Korea-SAARC Partnership Seminar on “Development Cooperation in Public Health between Korea and SAARC”, Seoul, Korea. Organized by the the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the ROK and the Korea Institute for International Economy Policy (KIEP); 26/10/2015

Presented at the Regional Consultation on Stengthening Income Support for Vulnerable Groups in Asia and the Pacific 26-27 March 2014, Incheon, Republic of Korea

Made a presentation on the labour market in Sri Lanka at the ICRIER-World Bank Conference on Jobs for Development: Challenges and Solutions (1-2 December 2014, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi).

Presented a paper at the workshop on Social Mobility: Experiences and Lessons from Asia, to take place in Seoul, Korea from November 24-25, 2014

Presented at the ‘Asian Approaches to Social Mobility Experience, Lessons and Opportunities for Cooperation’ Organized by CEPA in collaboration with the The Asia Foundation and the Korean Development Institute (KDI)


Weathering Disasters: Why it Pays to be Prepared, Talking Economics, October 2020

Nisha Aruntilake with H.N. Thenuwara. Trouble Brewing? How Sri Lanka’s Tea Industry Can Prepare for Future Challenges. Talking Economics. 03 April 2019

Ashani Abayasekara and Nisha Arunatilake. 2017. Path to Skills Development: Helping Sri Lankan Youth Navigate the Hurdle of O-Level. Talking Economics. July 15 2017.

Arunatilake, Nisha, 15 November 2017, “Budget Allocations for Teacher Training: Is Sri Lanka Playing its Cards Right?” Talking Economics, IPS.

Nisha Arunatilake. Creating employment in post-conflict and fragile states. Jobs and Development blog – World Bank. 18 November 2015

Nisha Arunatilake. Lessons from Teaching Research Methodology at IPS.  20 May 2016

Arunatilake, N. Jayawardena, P. (2017). The Proof of the Pudding is in the Eating: Distribution and Revenue Implications of Sri Lanka’s New Inland Revenue Act. Talking Economics. Colombo:  Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka.

Arunatilake, N. (2015, April 23). If Sri Lanka is to join the knowledge economy, it needs to improve its education, training and skills. Retrieved July 2, 2015, from Jobs and Development Blog, The World Bank

Nisha Arunatilake, Suwendrani Jayaratne, Nipuni Perera and Neluka Gunasekera, September 25, 2014, “Sri Lanka Can Gain More from Migration by Helping Returnees Reintegrate Better”, Talking Economics, IPS.


Weathering disasters: Why it pays to be prepared, Daily Mirror, 06 October 2020

STEM Development, Daily FT, January 2020

The Importance of STEM Education, TV 1 Biz 1st ‘InFocus’, September 2019

Sunrise Magazine – The magazine for Inspired Seniors, May-June 2018, Volume 2. No. 1, Baby Steps Towards Graceful Retirement.  Nisha Arunatilake was quoted in page 36.

‘Better Schools for Better O-Level Results in Sri Lanka’ Report Launch, on State of Business by Art TV

Shortage of qualified teachers in math and science linked to poor O/L results: IPS – Daily FT, 29 Nov. 2017

Poor teacher recruitment policies hamper academic performance of govt. schools: IPS – Daily Mirror, 29 Nov. 2017

‘Better Schools for Better O-Level Results in Sri Lanka’ draws attention to the shortage of qualified and experienced teachers – The Island, 30 Nov. 2017

With Rathindra Kuruwita, IPS, Ceylon Today. “Skills mismatch a massive economic cost Education system must be reformed“, 16th October 2017.

With Chandeepa Wettasinghe, “Economist blames outdated labour laws for high youth unemployment“, August 29 2017. Mirror Business.

Biz 1st Infocus on ‘State of the Economy 2017’ report, MTV, MTV office