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Sri Lanka hires 45,000 graduates in costly fallout from state university crisis

GRADUATE CRISIS: Unemployed graduates from state universities regularly agitate for jobs.

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has announced that 45,585 graduate mainly from state universities who failed to get a job in productive sectors, would be given appointments to join the public sector at tax-payer expense, in a costly fallout from a quality crisis in the island’s higher education sector.

Information and Higher Education Minister Bandula Gunawardana said the names of the graduates would be posted online on March 11.

The unemployed graduate scheme on the eve of a general election had also fallen foul of Sri Lanka’s elections commission, who has said letters of appointment cannot be given before upcoming general elections, with the government disputing the order.

Lost Years

The graduates mainly from state universities had studied for close to four years with a time gap between passing high school and entering a state university.

They have also waited without a job for long periods with no productive work to contribute to society, despite getting a degree from tax payer funded universities.

The age limit for tax-payer funded jobs is 45 years and it is not known for how many years they were unemployed. But according criteria originally published criteria the jobless graduates should have waited at least three years without a working.

If a job-failed graduate passed out at around 22 years of age, the quality and regulatory crisis in state universities had remained un-addressed for over two decades.

The state regulated degrees either lack the qualities required for growing sectors of the economy or the graduates lack the attitude or soft-skills to work in productive sectors.

Tens of Billions

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According to criteria published earlier, all job-failed graduates should have a degree or higher national diploma from a course approved by the University Grants Commission, the regulator of the universities mired in the quality crisis producing tens of thousands of graduates who are left unemployed.

Some course of state universities including in management, engineering, information technology and medicine are in high demand.

It is not clear which courses and which universities are most responsible for producing unemployed graduates, or whether resident or external degrees are most responsible.

The trainees would be given 20,000 rupees a month for a one year training period, which would cost around 10.9 billion rupees. The cost of the trainers, facilities, electricity, training materials are not known.

In 2019, the University Grants Commission was allocated 61 billion rupees in tax payer money according to finance ministry data, up from 55 billion rupees in 2018.

When made permanent, the job-failed graduates would add to Sri Lanka’s already bloated public service, which took home 48 cents of out every tax rupee collected from the public (820 billion rupees out of 1712 billion rupees in taxes), via salaries, wages and also pensions of retirees.

Some productive sector employers have complained of the lack of initiative and weak team work capacity of state sector graduates as reasons for not hiring as well as a militant ‘entitled’ attitude among some who believe society owes them a job.

The job-failed graduate are going after tax money as Sri Lanka is recovering from a currency crisis in 2018, which saw the rupee collapse from 152 to 182 to the US dollars, slowing growth, raising inflation and national debt.

The behavior of Sri Lanka’s job-failed graduates who are going after taxes collected from the people is in sharp contrast to the people of Korea who acted after a currency crisis led to a collapse of the Korean won against the dollar, triggering contraction in economy and spike in inflation like Sri Lanka.

In 1998, the Korean people collected 227 tonnes of gold to shore up foreign reserves. (Colombo/Mar08/2020)

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