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.
While the government – which is grappling with massive debt burdens and fiscal deficits – has limited capacity to assist workers and employers, are there ways in which current employment-related social protection programmes can be used to provide for both job and enterprise protection during crises? What measures have other countries taken that Sri Lanka can learn from? This blog examines these issues.
The COVID-19 pandemic emerged as a public health crisis, and morphed into a global economic crisis, with severe impacts on commercial activity, employment, and trade. In Sri Lanka, the pandemic has affected revenue streams of many businesses in the country. The impact is more harshly felt by unprotected workers. This blog discusses key issues that need to be rectified in Sri Lanka’s labour market policies to face similar emergencies in the future.
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.
The first ever “Labour Demand Survey” in Sri Lanka recorded nearly half a million vacancies in the private sector. A large portion of these vacancies are found to be in routine and non-routine manual jobs. However, most of Sri Lanka’s job-seekers are educated youth, searching for white-collar jobs. This blog discusses “sectoral mismatch” between the demand and supply of labour in Sri Lanka, using LDS data, and looks at ways in which it can be resolved.