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.
Sri Lanka appears to do relatively well in terms of gender representation in the broad field of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. However, significant gender differences in enrollments exist within STEM fields. In the context of an upcoming technology-driven Fourth Industrial Revolution, being equipped with STEM-related skills will be increasingly important to survive in the future labour market, argues Ashani Abayasekara.
Sri Lanka’s labour market has been riddled with persistent high informality, an unchanging low female labour force participation, and low quality of available jobs. Enhancing exports can be a solution to these intractable problems, according to the findings of the Exports to Jobs – Boosting the Gains from Trade in South Asia report, which shows that boosting exports improves domestic labour markets by creating jobs, increasing wages, and reducing informality.
The Sri Lankan economy is transitioning from a mere labour sending economy into one that both sends and receives workers. The same employment opportunities, working conditions, and demand and supply conditions that necessitated outmigration of Sri Lankans workers is now attracting foreign workers in to Sri Lanka. In this new reality, Sri Lanka needs an updated Act to govern immigration in to the country, as well as a matching institutional framework to ensure efficient and foolproof operation of related activities. In formulating such an institutional framework, it is important to note that migration transition is a long, complicated, and dynamic phase.
The 14th Edition of the Talking Economics Digest centers on the theme of ‘Bridging the Skill Gap.’ The mismatch between the demand and supply of skilled employees is the Achilles heel of Sri Lanka’s labour market.