Repatriation and Replacement of Lost Foreign Jobs: Handling Labour Migration in Sri Lanka during COVID-19
Sri Lanka, which has been sending workers abroad for employment for decades, is now faced with the formidable challenge of repatriating large numbers of migrant workers affected by COVID-19. This exercise calls for a continued coordination with the returnees, beyond the period of travel and quarantine. This blog dissects the nuances of labour migration, lost foreign employment opportunities, and repatriation brought about by the spread of COVID-19 and provides policy recommendations to successfully re-enter foreign labour markets.
Growing pressure on Sri Lanka’s scarce foreign exchange resources, due to the wide spread of COVID-19 across the globe, is now more real than ever before. To ease this pressure, the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) has taken many measures to attract as well as retain more foreign exchange in Sri Lanka. Yet, it is uncertain if these efforts alone would be able to address Sri Lanka’s deepening foreign exchange concerns. This blog highlights the importance of remittances to Sri Lanka and outlines how to harness the potential of international remittances to complement other efforts already taken by the CBSL.
Remittances are often considered a stable and reliable source of development financing. In 2017, remittances to Sri Lanka declined by 1.08%, compared to the previous year, while the decline in 2018 was 2.08%. An underexplored reason for the decline in remittances is the recent changes in the composition of migrant workers from Sri Lanka. Bilesha Weeraratne highlights the gender aspect of remittances, to identify strategies to improve the country’s remittances in the future.
Around 28,000 Sri Lankan youth who have migrated to Korea, temporarily, since 2014, under the Employment Permit System (EPS), to work in manufacturing, construction and fisheries sectors – dirty, difficult, and dangerous (3D) jobs in the SME sector. The temporary nature of migration to Korea necessitates that policymakers in both home and host countries look at ways to help migrants maximise savings during their stay abroad.
Labour migration from Sri Lanka has experienced many changes in recent years. Often, these are due to traditional reasons, such as oil price fluctuations and the slowing down of growth in destination economies; but another factor that could contribute to shifts in migration patterns is the transformations taking place in the world of work in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). This blog examines the influence of 4IR on changing patterns of labour migration from Sri Lanka.