Sri Lanka’s migrant workers are an integral part of our economy, with their remittances traditionally accounting for the second largest share of the country’s foreign exchange earnings (8% of GDP in 2019) after merchandise exports. After the COVID-19 outbreak and resultant difficulties, a sizeable proportion of migrants looked forward to a safe return home. This blog, written to mark International Migrants Day, examines the experience and challenges in the repatriation process and offers suggestions on the way forward.
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.
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.
Taking into account the locations immediately affected by the Easter Sunday attacks and its ripple effects, a short- to medium-term impact on foreign exchange earnings is likely to be experienced in Sri Lanka. The tourism industry, despite once being well-positioned to continue its upward trend in foreign exchange earnings, is now likely to experience a temporary downfall, while international remittances, which were experiencing an incipient downward trend, are likely to experience a temporary upturn in the aftermath of these attacks, argues Bilesha Weeraratne.