Technology plays an important role in modern society. It connects, innovates, and transforms economies and societies at large. Yet, women and girls continue to have limited access to technology. This gender bias is also present in Sri Lanka, where women comprise of over 50% of the population.
This year, the United Nations marks International Women’s Day with the theme “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”, focusing on the digital gender gap’s impact on widening socio-economic inequalities. This blog explores the factors hindering Sri Lankan women’s access to technology and discusses some ways to overcome them.
The decision by the Cabinet to partially lift the Family Background Report (FBR) requirement for female migrants is long overdue and a welcome move to promote female labour migration from Sri Lanka. The FBR policy was introduced in June 2013 to restrict females with children under the age of five and to discourage females with older children from taking up foreign employment. The FBR initially covered only female domestic worker departures but in August 2015, this was expanded to cover all females. As a result, from 2013 onwards the dominance of women among worker departures declined significantly. The partial removal of this discriminatory requirement is likely to increase female departures by enabling women to decide independent of their maternal status while minimising delays and vulnerability in the recruitment process. However, to reap the desired outcome of more remittances, the new stock of females departing for foreign employment in the absence of the FBR must be convinced to remit through formal channels.
Although Sri Lanka elected the world’s first female Prime Minister in 1960, over six decades later, the country’s political arena continues to be male-dominated. Sri Lanka currently ranks at 179 out of 189 countries for the percentage of women in national parliaments. This is far below the country’s South Asian counterparts. Women represent over 52% of the country’s population, yet men continue to play a dominant role in the national legislature. Insufficient female representation is a prominent weakness in Sri Lanka’s political landscape. The 2019 Presidential Election recorded the highest number of contestants in a Sri Lankan presidential election. Of the 35 presidential candidates, only one was female. With an overwhelming majority of the current administration being male, the current share of female members of parliament stands as low as 5.33%. This blog explores the gender disparities in Sri Lankan policymaking and outlines actionable steps to increase the share of women in politics.
Sri Lanka’s Gender-based Employment Segregation: Does it Increase Women’s Vulnerability Amidst COVID-19?
COVID-19 has created a crisis that has disproportionately affected women across the globe. Estimates show that women’s jobs are 1.8 times more vulnerable than men’s jobs, and while women make up 39% of global employment, they account for 54% of overall job losses. While many factors affect the vulnerability of women’s employment during the pandemic, existing gender gaps in the labour market, women’s employment share in highly-affected sectors, the ability to telecommute and the amount of unpaid care work carried out by women have been identified as the main determinants. Against this backdrop, this blog examines women’s vulnerability in the Sri Lankan labour market due to the sector they are employed in. It also looks at gender-based employment segregation – a key factor behind women’s overrepresentation in certain industries and underrepresentation in others – and proposes policy measures to address this imbalance.
Most Sri Lankan families are struggling to meet the costs of childcare. A vast majority of women who wish to be employed do not enter the labour market due to the lack of quality and affordable childcare. Even low-income families have to bear the high cost of childcare due to the absence of affordable childcare arrangements. Despite a growing need for childcare, for many women, finding quality and affordable childcare is difficult and childcare costs are very high. At the same time, faced with labour shortages employers are struggling to attract women to the workforce. Some companies have tried to overcome this problem by offering childcare at the workplace. This blog, based on an IPS study, tries to assess the feasibility of employer-assisted child care by estimating the willingness of women to pay for such childcare.