Sri Lanka mulls labour imports to overcome shortages, spur growth

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s government is planning urgent reforms to archaic labour laws to help revive economic growth and is even open to importing labour for sectors facing shortages, Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade Malik Samarawickrama said.

“We are looking very quickly at labour reforms,” he told a forum held by Ernst & Young to discuss the government’s 2019 budget presented in parliament last week.

“Our labour laws are archaic and we need new laws to encourage start-ups.

“We may even need to bring workers from overseas because some manufacturing  industries are complaining of labour shortages – otherwise we just cannot expand.”

Businesses in a range of sectors from agriculture to manufacturing and construction have been complaining of labour shortages with the island’s elevation to lower middle income status.

That has led to changing attitudes towards physical labour and aspirations among youth who are not keen to accept jobs with low pay and difficult working conditions in factories and farms.

Government officials have said labour shortages were holding back investments badly needed to increase exports and spur economic growth, which is widely considered below the island’s potential.

The government has said it expects economic growth to pick up to 3.5 percent in 2019 and four percent in 2020, after a 17-year low of three percent in 201, much lower than the 5.6 percent average annual growth over the 10 years to 2017.
(COLOMBO, March 12, 2019-SB)

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