Investments needed to stem youth exodus in Sri Lanka’s war-ravaged north

ECONOMYNEXT – Investments to create jobs are urgently needed in Sri Lanka’s war-ravaged north to stem an exodus of youth, a new study has said.

“Outmigration patterns will continue on the current upward trend without a concerted effort to increase both the quality and quantity of work opportunities in the Northern Province,” according to the Central Bank-sponsored study to revive the northern economy.

“Finding avenues for integrating youth into production and regular employment is equally important.”

It noted that there was a 50-percent increase of departures for foreign employment from the Northern Province over the period 2011 – 2016, with a peak annual figure of 12,642 in 2014.

The northern province lagged behind the rest of the country due to destroyed and underdeveloped infrastructure, and deteriorated social institutions and human resources, said the study, an economic development framework for the Northern Province master plan.

“Continual investment in upgrading the quality of human resources, particularly of youth, is required to enable higher long-term levels of productivity and better returns to labour from small agricultural producers, to skilled labour and professional business and financial management required for industries and service sector firms.”

In parallel, the study recommends initiating workforce development programmes that are in line with how the structure of the economy is predicted to change over the next decade.

“Increased participation of labour in production can immediately increase economic growth and employment,” the study said.

“Given the low female participation rate in the North, bringing more women into the labour force will significantly increase production.

“These new employment opportunities must be designed to accommodate women’s domestic responsibilities, providing decent working conditions, proximate location and time flexibility."

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Livelihoods programmes targeted at women must go beyond default responses such as handicrafts production that tend to omit the costs of labour.
(Colombo/February 26/2019-SB)
 

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