Sri Lanka think tank challenges official migration data

ECONOMYNEXT- A Colombo-based think tank said that Sri Lanka has not yet achieved net inward migration, challenging the data published by the Central Bank and the Registrar General’s Department which is including changes in tourist arrivals in population estimates.

This could have implications on the officially published data on Sri Lanka’s resident population.

"Sri Lanka has NOT yet reached the stage of net inward migration (immigration>emigration)," Institute of Policy Studies Research Fellow Bilesha Weeraratne said in a tweet, responding to a question on their twitter chat.

"However, there is an increase in immigrant workers in recent years due to reasons such as skills deficit and related labour shortages," she said.

Analysts say that with ongoing market fluxes in the Middle East, many Sri Lankan domestic workers have been returning home as well, pushing up inward migration.

According to provisional data on the Central Bank Annual Report, Sri Lanka has been experiencing net inward migration from 2015 onwards.

In 2015, there was 0.7 inward migrants per 1,000 people, which increased to 2.1 in 2016 and 2.3 in 2017.

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The annual report collects data from the Registrar General’s Department and the Census and Statistics Department.

The Registrar General Department’s Bulletin of Vital Statistics, available on the Census and Statistics Department website too said that net migration has been positive since 2015.

"The net migration of Sri Lanka in 2017 is 49,789. The value of net migration becomes positive from 2015 onwards. This has happened after 15 years," the report says.

The 49,789 net inward migrants is consistent with the 2.3 migrants per 1,000 people indicator for 2017, given the 21.4 million mid-year population of Sri Lanka in 2017.

"Net Migration=Arrivals-Departures," the Registrar General’s Department further says.

"The (Central Bank) table quoted and the Registrar General’s view is based on arrival and departure statistics," Weeraratne said when further clarification was sought as official data was different from her statement.

"As such their statistic is mostly related to tourists," she said.

 "Ideally such a statistic should not be in a table or discussion that shows the demography of the country, because most of these “arrivals” don’t end up “residing/living” in Sri Lanka to be considered as part of our demography."

"The ideal statistic should be the difference between immigration and emigration, which captures peoples’ movement to live in a different country," Weeraratne said. (Colombo/Dec17/2018)