Sri Lanka firms unable to fill vacancies amid yawning gap in salary expectations

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s formal and informal sector firms have nearly half a million vacancies with an expectation gap in pay being related to the inability to fill a large proportion of available jobs, an official survey has found.

A country-wide survey of 3,500 formal and informal work places employing more than three people by Sri Lanka’s Department of Census and Statistics had found 497,302 vacancies.

The services sector had 177,813 vacancies (35.8 percent), industry 175,250 (35.2 percent), trade 110,770 (22.2 percent), construction 20,224 (4.1 percent), tourism 10,207 (2.1 percent) and agriculture (plantations), 3,033 (0.6 percent).

Among occupations in high demand was 77,189 sewing machine operators (15.5 percent), 57,008 security guards (11.5 percent), 39,397 manufacturing labourers, 28,180 shop sales assistants, 21,067 advertising and marketing professionals, 19,775 commercial sales representative, 18,612 cleaners and helpers.

The largest number of vacancies of over 350,000 was in the Western province.

The survey found that ‘salaries/payments demanded for this occupation are too high’ mentioned by 13.5 percent of respondents as a reason for the inability to fill vacancies.

Another 9.5 percent mentioned ‘poor terms and conditions (e.g pay) offered for this post’, indicating an expectation gap totalling 23 percent.

Yet another 21.3 percent gave ‘too much competition from other employers’ as the inability to fill vacancies, though whether other firms offered better pay or conditions to woo workers was not mentioned.

Sri Lanka has protective tariffs due to a ‘domestic production’ autarkic mentality which puts food costs in particular above the region, while the central bank prints money and generates high levels of inflation.





An inflationist strategy of depreciating the currency to target a real effective exchange rate index in a bid to boost exports by denying a living wage to workers would also tend to make life difficult for workers.

‘Not enough people interest in doing this job’ was given as a reason for 25.4 percent of the vacancies indicating another aspirational gap.

A ‘low number of applicants qualified for the job was given in 13.5 percent of the case, showing a skills gap.

Many employees found that applicants lacked soft-skills involving teamwork, communications and initiative, the survey found. (Colombo/Jan09/2018)

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