An Echelon Media Company
Saturday September 30th, 2023

Over 50 pct of Sri Lanka’s returned migrant workers plan to go back: IPS study

ECONOMYNEXT – Over 50 percent of returned migrants in Sri Lanka plan to re-migrate, with 84 percent of the 511 people surveyed believing their current skills are sufficient for re-employment overseas, a study has shown.

The study, conducted by the Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka (IPS) in a Skilled and Resilient Migrant Workers (SRMW) project surveying 511 return migrants in Sri Lanka, revealed that among the surveyed participants, 56 percent of respondents had taken steps towards re-migration, while 193 are considering re-migration within 2023.

The IPS said in a statement authored by Research Assistant Piyumi Ranadewa that, out of the 193 considering to re-migrate in 2023, 68 percent have not pursued further formal training.

As Sri Lanka unveils its Labour Migration Policy 2023-2027, it is timely to shed light on the importance of skill development for re-migration, the IPS said.

“In Sri Lanka, migration is seen as a promising pathway to improved job opportunities, as evident from the recent long queues at passport offices. A significant proportion of Sri Lankan migrant workers were in semi-skilled and low-skilled categories. Most labour migrants are concentrated in Middle Eastern countries, which are common destinations for both skilled and unskilled workers. This aligns with the study findings, which indicated that many of these migrants were engaged in elementary occupations (domestic workers and other low and semi-skilled categories) during their recent overseas employment,” the IPS said in its statement.

Although most re-migrants from Sri Lanka have been employed in lower-skilled jobs, the institute said, they have great potential to improve their prospects by acquiring new skills through upskilling. However, the practice of upskilling is not widespread among this group

“For example, Sri Lanka predominantly relies on foreign domestic workers among its migrant workers. However, there is a growing demand for specialised services like nursing and elderly care. These specialised jobs often offer better pay than foreign domestic workers. Enhancing the skills of returning domestic workers can open up job opportunities in sectors beyond domestic work, particularly in healthcare,” the IPS said.

According to the institute’s findings, most returnee migrant workers planning to remigrate believe their previous training or experience from overseas would suffice, overlooking the need for continuous skill upgrading. In scenarios where re-migration is not voluntary but a necessity due to compelling circumstances, the IPS said, individuals may be forced to re-migrate without the opportunity or motivation to upgrade skills to pursue better employment opportunities overseas.

“If returnee migrant workers consider upskilling, many often opt for informal training or overlook skill development due to perceived opportunity costs and age-related barriers associated with formal skill training programmes available in the country. They fear that dedicating time and resources to formal training might not yield immediate returns on investment, leading them to choose informal learning options instead. Additionally, age-related concerns can make some migrant workers reluctant to enrol in formal training, as they feel they are past the ideal age for learning new skills,” the report noted.

Another significant barrier to skill development for returning migrants, according to the researchers, is the lack of targeted and tailored training programmes. During a Focus Group Discussion (FGD) conducted in Anuradhapura, reluctance to undergo formal training on the grounds that there is no suitable training available in Sri Lanka for the specific machines used while working abroad, had been cited as an example. As these workers aspire to find better opportunities upon their return, the researchers said, access to advanced and customised training becomes a pivotal factor in their career growth.

The IPS said that, while Sri Lanka has taken many steps to provide support services for upskilling and skill recognition for migrant workers, such as the recent collaboration between the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) and the Vocational Training Authority (VTA) to offer specialised training tailored to foreign employment needs, concerns remain regarding the effective dissemination of vital information to the intended beneficiaries.

“As found in the IPS’ study, while a majority of respondents have completed their education up to Grade 10, surprisingly, only 20 percent were aware of National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) levels. Although returnee migrant workers tend to favour informal training, a notable 76 percent (out of 511 individuals) had not acquired Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) credentials. These credentials serve to formally acknowledge the skills acquired through informal means. This highlights a significant gap and lack of awareness regarding formal skill development and recognition among the respondents.”

While the self-perceived competence of returnee migrant workers is a positive attribute, relying solely on existing skills without further training and formal recognition of available qualifications may hinder the personal and professional growth opportunities of returnee migrant workers, the IPS noted.

Therefore, it is crucial to foster a culture of lifelong learning and skill development to support returnee migrant workers in their re-migration journey and enable them to thrive in a dynamic job market. This involves creating awareness about the importance of ongoing education and training and providing accessible and relevant learning opportunities.

In its statement, the IPS made the following recommendations:

  • Improve dissemination of information and guidance about skill development programmes and raise awareness about the importance of upskilling,
  • Facilitate awareness and accessibility to available skill development programmes through easily accessible user-friendly platforms like websites or mobile applications.
  • Foster collaboration between the public and private sectors and educational institutes to develop targeted training programmes specifically tailored for migrant workers planning to remigrate. These programmes should align closely with industry needs and incorporate hands-on experience.
  • Establish networking and mentorship programmes that connect migrant workers with professionals in their fields, providing guidance, collaboration opportunities, and skill enhancement support.
  • Promote existing RPL and accreditation of informal skills, encouraging migrant workers to pursue upskilling opportunities.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Leave a Comment

Leave a Comment

Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sri Lanka bank bad loan expansion slows in June quarter

ECONOMYNEXT – Bad loans at Sri Lanka’s banks, measured as ‘Stage 03’ loans to total loans and advances expanded by 0.5 percent to 13.7 percent in the second quarter of 2023, central bank data shows, which is a slower pace than the previous three quarters.

Bad loans went up 1.9 percent in the September 2022 quarter, and 1.0 percent in the December quarter and 1.3 percent in the March quarter, as debt moratoria also ran out.

In Sri Lanka and other countries, large spikes in bad loans are usually ‘hangover’ of macro-economic policy deployed target growth.

Amid a stabilization effort, credit can also contract, making the bad loans bigger.

Sri Lanka’s bad loans usually spike after period of credit growth re-financed by printed money (reverse repo injections made to artificially target a call money rate), and not real deposits, which then trigger balance of payment deficits which require steep spikes in rates to restore monetary stability.

Sri Lanka economic bureaucrats cut rates with the printed money in the belief that there is a growth shortcut by cutting rates to target real GDP, which has led to external crises since a central bank was set up in 1950.

However, policy worsened after 2015 when the International Monetary Fund taught the country to calculate potential out and dangled the number in front of a central bank which had taken the country to the agency multiple times after running down reserves.

In December 2019, inflationists also cut taxes on top of rate cuts, deploying the most extreme Cambridge-Saltwater macro-economic policy ‘barber boom’ style with predictable results.

When rates are hiked to restore monetary stability, bad loans rise and a currency collapse destroys purchasing power of the consumers and sales of firms which had taken loans.

When central banks cut rates with liquidity injections bad loans also go up in floating rate regimes (the housing bubble), but balance of payments are crises are absent. (Colombo/Sept29/2023)

Continue Reading

Sri Lanka expects restructuring decisions from all creditors: Minister

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is engaging positively with all foreign creditors State Minister for Finance Shehan Semasinghe said this week as an International Monetary Fund review hangs in the balance on restructuring.

“All creditors are engaging positively with us,” Minister Semasinghe said. “We expect decisions from all our creditors. For us earlier the better.”

Sri Lanka is negotiating with Paris Club creditors and several non-Paris Club creditors like India and Saudi Arabia together and China separately. China is an observer in the Paris Club meeting.

The Paris Club held a meeting on Sri Lanka on September 22 with China as an observer.

Though Paris Club creditors have a well-oiled mechanism to give a quick decision on countries that default, the entry of China which had earlier not been willing to restructure debt, but was willing to give fresh loans to repay instalments, have complicated matters.

“Let me say again that we support Chinese financial institutions in actively working out the debt treatment with Sri Lanka,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters on September 26.

“We are ready to work with relevant countries and international financial institutions to jointly play a positive role in helping Sri Lanka navigate the situation, ease its debt burden and achieve sustainable development.”

There are expectations that Sri Lanka may be able to wrap up a preliminary deal with official creditors as early as October 2023 around the time IMF’s annual sessions take place in Morocco.

Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe is to make an official visit to China October.

Sri Lanka is expected to finalize a refinery deal in Hambantota among other investments during the visit, according to reports.

Completing Sri Lanka’s external debt restricting is key to completing the first review of the island’s reform and stabilization program with the International Monetary Fund, which is expected in October or November.

Without completing a review Sri Lanka will not have formal IMF economic targets for December, and no disbursement of the second tranche.

World Bank and IMF with the G20 group, which include India and China has formed Global Sovereign Debt Roundtable has been trying to fine tune debt restructuring going beyond the Paris Club.

IMF’s Senior Mission Chief for Sri Lanka Peter Breuer said Sri Lanka’s debt is ‘spread around quite a bit’ to a question whether an IMF review could progress without China, possibly indicating that the lender would prefer to have the country on board.

“This is a process that we have that applies in the case of Sri Lanka to both official creditors, meaning other countries that have lent to Sri Lanka on a bilateral basis as well as commercial creditors, for example, bond holders,” Breuer told reporters in Colombo.

“And as you know, the government is in discussions with all of these groups. In Sri Lanka’s case, the debt is spread around quite a bit externally and domestically.”

READ MORE Sri Lanka’s external debt restructure ‘progress’ decision by IMF exec board

Out of Sri Lanka’s 36.59 billion US dollars of central government debt, multilaterals held 29.8 percent or 10.9 billion US dollars which will not be restructured.

Bilaterals held another 29.9 percent of which Paris Club was 12.1 percent and China 12.7 percent.

Of the commercial debt which was 40.3 percent, China Development Bank held another 6 percent, relating to a monetary instability loan it has given as a bailout without asking for rate hikes to stop output gap targeting.

China without AIIB held 6,850 million US dollars or 18.7 percent of central government external debt. (Colombo/Sept29/2023)

Continue Reading

Sri Lanka can build strong tourism ‘eco-brand’: UN official

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka can build an ‘eco-brand’ catering especially to younger tourists who feel strongly about the environment, United Nations Resident Representative to Sri Lanka, Azusa Kobota said.

About 70 percent of global travellers prioritise sustainability in their holiday choices, marking a ten percent increase from 2021, while around 30 percent of travellers feel guilty about flying, due to carbon emissions, she said.

“As the world embraces green thinking during this time of economic recovery efforts, the objective of the tourism sector cannot simply be about increasing the number of inbound tourists,” Kobota said at an event marking World Tourism Day in Colombo.

“It has to be about enhancing their experience through green lenses, by implementing a responsible, eco-conscious paradigm for the sector and building a stronger eco-brand around the sustainable agenda for Sri Lanka,”

“This is no longer about reducing the trade offs between growing the industry and protecting the environment.

“We must see nature as our asset and solutions to be obtained for the exponential growth for our future generations.”

The sustainable tourism market is estimated to have earned 195 billion US dollars in 2022, and is expected to reach about 656 billion US dollars in 2032, she said.

“Tourists, particularly the younger generations from gen X,Y,Z are deeply, deeply conscious about the long term choices of their actions, and the adverse impact of tourists on the environment.

“Statistics show that a significant proportion of global travellers, about 30 percent, feel guilty about flying due to the environmental impact and 22 percent say they actively prefer public transport and bicycle rental options, over renting a car.”

Sri Lanka welcomed one million tourists by September 26 and is expecting more that 1.5 million tourists by the end of the year. (Colombo/Sept29/2023)

Continue Reading