Sri Lanka lacks progress on job quality, quantity: ESCAP

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka failed to make progress in improving the quantity and quality of employment last year with a large proportion of low-productivity jobs in her economy and wage inequality high, a United Nations agency has said.

In 2016, average employment growth in the Asia-Pacific region was modest but remained steady at 1.1 per cent, while the share of vulnerable employment remained persistently high at about 50 per cent, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) said.

“Only a few countries made progress on both fronts of quantity and quality (the Philippines, for example) as others succeeded only on quantity (Indonesia) or quality (Thailand and Viet Nam) or failed on both (Sri Lanka),” its Economic and Social Survey for Asia and the Pacific 2017 said.

The UN agency said that wage inequality varies considerably across countries in the region with the top 10 per cent of wage earners earning about 10 times more than the bottom 10 per cent in Indonesia and Singapore.

“This ratio was also relatively high in India, Malaysia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand,” the report said.

The report showed that Sri Lanka was among countries with the lowest average annual real wage growth during the 2000-2015 period compared with average annual real GDP growth.

Sri Lanka also had one of the biggest gaps between the two indicators – economic and wage growth – while China was on top with wage growth almost as high as GDP growth.

The UNESCAP report said available data on occupational groups point to the “dominance of low-productivity jobs” in South and South-West Asia.

The share of jobs which are generally regarded as more productive and have higher skills requirements, such as professional, managerial and technical work, remains below 20 per cent in most economies in the subregion, it said.

In contrast, skilled jobs in the agricultural sector and elementary occupations account for the highest shares of workers in most economies.





In Maldives, almost half of all employed persons are performing rudimentary occupations, such as street vending, providing cleaning services and performing simple tasks related to farming, manufacturing and mining, ESCAP said.

“Such shares are also high in India at about 30 per cent and close to 20 per cent each in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka,” it said.

Informal jobs are common in countries of the South Asian region.

Even where jobs exist, the quality of jobs, including such aspects as wages, working conditions, social protection and equal access to employment opportunities, is important, the UN agency noted.

“In South and South-West Asia, the quality of employment appears to be low, as a large share of workers is being employed in the informal sector,” it said.

“For example, informal employment accounts for about 70 per cent of all jobs in Sri Lanka, almost 90 per cent in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, and up to 95 per cent in Nepal.”

These informal jobs are typically characterized by low pay, poor working conditions and little or no protection or rights.
(COLOMBO, May 09, 2017)

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