Project Launch – Women’s Access to Decent Work in Sri Lanka: Addressing Context-Specific Barriers

24 November 2022

IPS launched a project on ‘Women’s Access to Decent Work in Sri Lanka: Addressing Context-Specific Barriers’ funded by Co-Impact’s Gender-Fund and managed by the Partnership for Economic Policy (PEP). The lead researcher of the study, Dr Nisha Arunatilake, Director of Research, IPS explained that the study specifically examines barriers to female access to decent work through four main dimensions: (1) legal barriers; (2) social infrastructure (work-life balance); (3) social norms (outside and within the workplace); and (4) impact of COVID-19 and technological changes. She explained that the study findings would be used to initiate policy changes to reduce barriers to women’s access to decent work in Sri Lanka.

Dr Lakmini Fernando, Research Economist at IPS, discussed the current decent work context in Sri Lanka along the main dimensions of the study and highlighted the gaps identified in the literature. Existing research, for example, indicates that a lack of safe public transportation is a significant social infrastructure issue affecting female access to decent work. In Sri Lanka, 90% of women face sexual harassment when using public transport. Dr Fernando identified some measures that can be taken to provide safe public transportation, such as strengthening response and grievance mechanisms and adopting a gender perspective in national policy and public transport operations. She emphasised the role of institutional changes in establishing a safe travel culture, thereby improving women’s access to decent work.

Sunimalee Madurawala, Research Economist, IPS discussed the study’s next steps, elaborating on the proposed approach to address the gaps identified along the four dimensions. The project will use mixed methods, including qualitative data (key informant interviews) and quantitative data (using secondary sources) to better understand how attitudes, social contexts, and social infrastructure influence female access to decent work and use those findings to recommend policies to improve labour market conditions for females in Sri Lanka.

The project launch coincided with the first stakeholder consultation meeting, which was set up to provide guidance and technical inputs to the IPS research team to ensure the policy relevance and quality of research outputs. The consultation meeting was attended by representatives from the Ministry of Women, Child Affairs and Social Empowerment, the Ministry of Labour, the Women’s Chamber of Industry and Commerce, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) Sri Lanka and Maldives, and the Sri Lanka Independent Workers Union, as well as independent consultants.