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Tuesday June 25th, 2024

Only 7.7 pct of Sri Lanka’s working-age women in formal employment: IPS

ECONOMYNEXT – Only 7.7 percent of working-age women are engaged in formal employment with decent wages and decent working hours, the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) said, noting that household and caregiving responsibilities and limited availability of jobs compound Sri Lanka’s low levels of female labour force participation.

“Decent work is multifaceted, incorporating productive work that delivers a fair income in conditions of freedom, equity, security, and human dignity (ILO, 1999). Due to the heavier household and caregiving responsibilities falling on women, they face challenges when participating in the labour force and securing decent work,” the IPS said in a statement on Monday November 06, authored by researchers Kimuthu Kiringoda and Himani Vithanage.

Noting that Sri Lanka’s labour market is characterised by several gender-specific challenges, IPS Director of Research Nisha Arunatilake was quoted as saying that employers consider women’s additional household and caregiving responsibilities when hiring workers, affecting the demand for female workers. Sri Lankan legislation also places higher costs on employers when hiring females, including maternity leave and added security expenses. Even when women are recruited, said Arunatilake, they face constraints and disadvantages in opportunities for promotions and career development owing to their household duties.

A separate survey by Sri Lanka’s Women and Media Collective found in July 2023 that 54.7 percent women respondents had said they could not get a job as there was no one to take care of their children, while another 11.9 percent had said there was no one to take care of their parents.

Notably, no man gave the two reasons for not being in paid work.


Sri Lanka women prevented from paid work by childcare, domestic work

According to the IPS, another main issue in Sri Lanka is the limited availability of decent jobs, especially outside the Western province.

As noted by Arunatilake, “about 30 percent of the jobs in these areas are in the agriculture sector,” which mostly comprises vulnerable jobs with low income. This, she said, combined with employers’ preference for recruiting males, further restricts women’s access to decent work opportunities.

A recent IPS study revealed that only 8 percent of Sri Lanka’s working-age population is engaged in formal employment with decent wages and decent working hours. For females, the percentage is 7.7 percent, lower than the male percentage of 8.3 percent.  The study also emphasised that access to decent work improves when women are English literate and have higher levels of education. Additionally, households with male members in formal work increase prospects for women to enter decent work. Unfortunately, the presence of school-going children decreases their chances of decent work, as women shoulder increased responsibility for their children’s education, the IPS said in its statement.

The IPS went on to say that outdated labour laws still retain provisions that are discriminatory to women. The lack of female representation in decision-making committees further compounds the challenges faced by women seeking decent work.

A conference organised by the IPS in collaboration with Partnership for Economic Policy (PEP) and Co-Impact, hosted the National Policy Conference on Women’s Access to Decent Work in Sri Lanka on October 31 saw policymakers and key stakeholders discuss means of improving women’s access to decent work, focusing on the importance of creating decent jobs for women and the role of childcare facilities in enhancing women’s access to decent work.

Executive Director at the Industrial Service Bureau Neelakanth Wanninayake was quoted as saying at the conference that a majority of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) in Sri Lanka struggle with issues like poor quality consciousness, low productivity, limited innovation, and diversification. Some of the major barriers to industrialisation, including policy issues, lack of access to finance and credit, inefficient infrastructure, lack of innovation and technology transfer, and poor entrepreneurial culture, need to be addressed to generate decent job opportunities in the country, she said.

Transforming precarious jobs to decent jobs in addition to the creation of decent jobs was discussed at the event, and, as access to decent work significantly differs at the regional level, implementing policies at the regional level was also stressed.

Gender segregation in the labour market in Sri Lanka is another persistent  issue, according to the IPS, with women often confined to certain types of professions, such as teaching and low-skilled service sector jobs. First Vice Chairperson of the Women’s Chamber of Industry and Commerce (WCIC) Gayani Herath de Alwissaid that, in the transport and logistics sector in Sri Lanka, female representation is only 3.4% compared to 96.6% of male representation. A significant factor contributing to this is the limited awareness of job prospects within specific industries that offer decent job opportunities, De Alwis said, noting the importance of raising awareness to attract women to decent jobs and ensuring their retainment in the workforce once entered.

Programme Manager, Gender and Economic Inclusion, International Finance Corporation Sri Lanka (IFC) Aarthy Arunasalam who also spoke at the event had highlighted the significance of having strong male advocates to promote women’s engagement in decent work, access to financial and non-financial services, and strengthening the linkages in the supply chain while integrating women into the entire value chain are some critical points highlighted.

General Manager, Women’s Empowerment, Advocacy and Code of Conduct at MAS Holdings Thanuja Jayawardene, meanwhile, highlighted challenges faced by the private sector in implementing childcare policies in the absence of a coherent national policy.

According to the statement, all panellists at the conference had agreed it is a societal responsibility to protect children and ensure their sound development in their early years. Jayawardene noted that two issues regarding creches at the workplace are the cost for the business and the different requirements of varied classes of employees. In the apparel sector, she said, the factory floor and office cadre have different requirements and shifts. It was, however, reiterated that the apparent sector was built on the backbone of women to whom extensive care and attention should be given, according to the IPS statement.

Parental responsibility and parental care was also discussed.

“All the experts agreed that child-rearing responsibility should shift from the mother to both parents, reaffirming the need for provisions for paternal leave. Taking steps to reduce crimes committed against children was also discussed by Project Manager of Women’s Centre Sri Lanka Gayani Gomes, citing examples from the free trade zones.

“Director (Planning and Information), Child Protection Authority, Shanika Malalgoda highlighted the National Guidelines for Day Care Centres in the discussion as a sound tool to maintain standards of care, along with the five-year action plan introduced by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs. Arguments were raised by the audience against the policy, stating that there are too many bodies involved, making the implementation complex. Malalgoda said they cannot avoid multi-sectoral engagement and are working with limited resources in the ministry,” the IPS said. (Colombo/Nov06/2023)

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Sri Lanka to sign Paris Club debt deals as fresh ISB talks to also start

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka will sign agreements on restructured debt with Paris Club creditors Wednesday, Cabinet spokesman Minister Bandula Gunawardana said as sources said talks with private creditors are also due to start later in the week.

The relevant senior officials and State Minister Shehan Semasinghe has already left the country to sign the agreements, Minister Gunawardana said.

Sri Lanka has held detailed negotiations with bilateral creditors ever since a sovereign default in 2022 and President Ranil Wickremesinghe has personally met leaders of friendly countries to expedite the restructuring, he said.

The finalizing of the restructure was a ‘great victory’ for Sri Lanka he said.

Details will be revealed to parliament by President Wickremesinghe and an address to the nation on Wednesday he said.

Discussion with private bondholders are also taking place separately, he said.

Face to face talks with bond holders are likely to start Thursday, sources said.

Investors in a steering committee representing key bondholders have halted trading and are in a ‘restricted’ period Bloomberg Newswires reported.

Sri Lanka is attempting to restructure 12.5 billion dollars of sovereign bonds and about 1.7 billion dollars of past due interest following the declaration of an external default in 2022.

Private investors are seeking some so-called macro-linked bonds whose final haircut is linked to dollar GDP as well as some standard or ‘plain vanilla’ bonds with an upfront haircut.

The style of bonds have not been used in sovereign restructurings before. In the latest round of talks more plain vanilla bonds may be discussed, sources aware of the thinking of some bond investors said.

The ISB holders have proposed a 28 percent haircut and a 1.8 percent consent fee. The macro-linked bonds would have principle re-stated up to 92 percent of the original depending on the evolution of gross domestic product.

Sri Lanka is restructuring debt using an IMF debt sustainability model applied to middle income countries with market access as opposed to debt sustainability model used in countries like Ghana applicable to low income countries requiring deeper haircuts on both domestic and foreign debt.

Hair cuts may also depend on the maturity of bonds and the coupon interest.

Ghana has higher levels of commercial debt having started to access capital markets from around 2007.

Ghana also has a bad central bank like Sri Lanka and has gone to the International Monetary Fund 18 times.

The country is also operating flexible inflation targeting (inflation targeting without a clean float), which critics say is the latest spurious monetary regime peddled to hapless unstable countries without a doctrinal foundation in sound money.

Having done broad domestic debt restructuring as well as continued currency volatility both interest rates and inflation remains above 20 percent.

Ghana’s central bank has a worse monetary anchor (8 percent inflation plus 2 percent) compared to 5 percent plus two in Sri Lanka and runs into currency trouble despite being an oil producer like Iran, Venezuela and neighboring Nigeria.

Nigeria has an inflation target of 6-9 percent but ends up with around 20 plus inflation and currency trouble.

Sri Lanka has undershot its inflation target since reaching monetary stability in September 2022 and has appreciated the currency, amid deflationary policy giving a strong foundation for economic activity to resume. (Colombo/June26/2024)

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Sri Lanka to seek investors for 200MW BOOT power plant

EONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s cabinet has given approval to seek investors for a 200 MegaWatt independent power plant on a build-own-operate-and-transfer (BOOT) basis, a government statement said.

The internal combustion power plant will be capable of running on natural gas and is part of the Long-Term Generation Expansion of state-run Ceylon Electricity Board.

The investor will get as 20-year power purchase agreement.

Land next to the ‘Sobhadanavi’ combined cycle plant will be made available for the developer.

According to the generation plan, the 200MW IC plant is expected to come on stream by 2026.

In 2026, a 115 MW gas turbine, a CEB owned diesel plants of 68 MW and 72 MW are due to be retired. (Colombo/June25/2026)

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Sri Lanka rupee closes steady at 305.25/35 to US dollar

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee closed fairly flat at 305.25/35 to the US dollar on Tuesday, down from 305.20/30 to the US dollar on Monday, dealers said, while bond yields up.

A bond maturing on 01.06.2026 closed at 10.75/11.05 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.12.2026 closed at 10.65/11.05 percent, up from 10.45/85 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.10.2027 closed at 10.65/11.10 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.03.2028 closed at 11.20/11.50 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2029 closed at 12.10/15 percent, up from 12.05/17 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.12.2031 closed at 12.10/20 percent, up from 12.08/15 percent.

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