Sri Lanka mulls ways to get more women to work

COLOMBO (EconomyNext) – With Sri Lanka’s male unemployment falling, most new jobs will go to women but barriers to their employment need to be removed, a new United Nations report said.

"Low female labour force participation, especially among women with higher levels of education who are not seeking employment, is a distinct disadvantage economically," said the report on how the island had performed in meeting the Millennium Development Goals.

"Special strategies may be needed to increase female labour force participation, such as flexible working hours, opportunities to work from home and creation of suitable employment opportunities in all regions."

The lack of suitable day-care centres with qualified staff may also prevent women from seeking employment.

The UN report suggested the government undertake a comprehensive policy study to thoroughly understand the issue.

The employment-to-population ratio for males (15 years and over) is more than 70 percent, while that for females is only around 30 percent.

While a large proportion of working age males are employed, the ratio for females is low, despite the rapid enhancement in female education, the report said.

This trend has remained more or less the same over the last three decades.

Although the labour force participation of women is low, their contribution to Sri Lanka’s
economy is high, the report noted.

They comprise the bulk of the workforce in the plantation sector and apparel industries, and nearly half of migrant workers, whose remittances contribute significantly to foreign exchange earnings.

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