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Sri Lanka may have lost 37,500 overseas jobs since March

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka could have lost around 37,500 overseas jobs up to the end of May due to the Coronavirus pandemic, while many are also trying to return to the country, with domestic job opportunities also reduced, a researcher has said.

In April 2019, about 15,000 workers had left for foreign jobs.

Sri Lanka’s Bureau of Foreign Employment has halted the departure of workers employed with them for overseas employment.

“Specifically, compared to the approximately 15,000 Sri Lankans who left for foreign employment in April 2019, in April 2020, there were zero departures of migrant workers,” Bilesha Weeraratne, a researcher at Colombo-based Institute of Policy Studies said in an online post.

“May 2020 also appears to be a lost month in terms of foreign employment, while in March 2020, only about a half of the planned departures occurred (around7,500).

“As such, from mid-March to end of May, the missed foreign employment opportunities for Sri Lankans amount to around 37,500 jobs.

“All these ‘would-have-been’ migrant workers add to the displacement in the Sri Lankan labour market, as they are unemployed for all intents and purposes.

About 17,000 migrant workers and their families are trying to reach Sri Lanka, Weeraratne said.

Meanwhile Sri Lanka’s domestic market has already been hit with informal sector workers becoming immediately un-employed.

Formal private sector employees are also being hit by an unemployment/underemployment wave.

“In short, even without factoring in the returning and the’would-have–been’ migrant workers, the Sri Lankan labour market was already in turmoil from COVID-19,” Weeratne said.

Weeratne has suggested that the ban on departure to all countries of those registered with the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment be lifted and retrictions be placed on selected countries, done on a scientific and medical basis.

Otherwise it will worsen the gap between registered unregistered migrant workers. (Colombo/May31/2020)