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Tuesday December 5th, 2023

Sri Lanka’s returning female migrant workers don’t plan for long-term sustainability: study

Migrant workers in Kuwait, April 2020

ECONOMYNEXT – A majority of Sri Lanka’s female migrant workers aim to return the moment their immediate financial targets are met, with little or no plans for long-term economic sustainability, a study by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) has found.

Most female workers who travel abroad do so in search of income that would help finance their debt burdens and other financial difficulties back home and expect to return as soon as those financial targets are met, the IPS said in a statement authored by Research Assistant Manisha Weeraddana.

“In fact, these migrant workers rarely see the need for such reintegration as they do not understand the economic and labour market realities until they try to reassimilate into their lives back home,” IPS said.

With the recent launch of the National Policy and Action Plan on Migration for Employment (2023-2027), it is timely to draw up a picture of Sri Lankan returnee female migrant workers and the socio-economic nuances that determine the ultimate decision-making of these women to migrate and/or reintegrate, the institute said.

Among the key concerns highlighted in the statement is a lack of job opportunities as well as forced migration.

The IPS study collected data from 511 return migrant workers randomly selected from Kandy, Kurunegala, Puttalam, Anuradhapura and Vavuniya.

“Here there is no specific work nearby. Sometimes, there is work in vegetable fields … we get around LKR 1000-1200. But it is very hard to find work,” one worker by the name of Asoka had told the researchers, pointing to what IPS called a major issue faced by return female migrant workers in the sample.

“A good part of those who stated lack of job opportunities as a major impediment faced during economic reintegration are considering re-migration or settling down to opening small boutiques with whatever they have managed to save up from their time abroad. Thus, in a way, the decision between successful reintegration and remigration mostly deals with the lack of job opportunities in rural areas,” the statement said.

A lack of support systems and running on borrowed time are other concerning factors.

“Can’t leave my daughter and go in search of jobs… Earlier his (husband’s) mother was there …”  says Asoka.

IPS said Sri Lankan women who migrate for work seem to act on borrowed time which allows them to migrate, earn, send home their incomes, and return home when “time runs out” or in other words, when the support system back home can no longer accommodate the household duties left vacant by a woman.  Asoka’s voice, the researcher said, echoing a prominent theme in Sri Lanka’s female economic participation, opens a new dimension to the discourse surrounding female migrant workers and their decision and capacity to be economically active.

Figure 1: SLBFE Registered Female Migrant Workers by Skill Category

Source: Author’s compilation based on SLBFE 2021 statistics

“Even though most return female migrants are categorised as low-skilled or semi-skilled workers, they possess years of experience as caregivers and domestic workers that should ideally have given them a greater capacity to reintegrate into the Sri Lankan economy. However, most return female migrants are hesitant to pursue similar job opportunities within the local context. This hesitancy is fueled by lack of information regarding well-paying job opportunities for domestic workers/caregivers in urban areas, the social stigma associated with domestic work and challenges in finding work closer to home,” the author wrote.

“The lack of job opportunities in nearby areas highlights another socio-economic dynamic within households of return migrant women, i.e., support systems that make working away from home a possibility.  What is peculiar about these systems is that, for some women, they only exist for a limited period of time. For others, a support system appears to be created, even a second time around, in the face of potential income generation, specifically if it happens to be in the familiar realm of migrant work.”

According to the IPS statement, these subtle nuances of the economic reintegration of female returnee migrants beg policy interventions as well as further research regarding the matter. The 2023-2027 National Policy plan does cater to some of the issues presented. For instance, Core Policy 3 focuses on the promotion of employment opportunities for skilled and semi-skilled migrant workers which can in turn expand the migrant workers’ chances of economic reintegration and financial security. Strategy 4.3.4 under Core Policy 4 focuses on entrepreneurial support for female return migrant workers which can improve the economic reintegration of those who cannot move too far from home in search of job opportunities.

“Nonetheless, further measures are needed, starting with creating awareness surrounding the potential work opportunities for domestic workers within Sri Lanka, and the creation of links between the existing market for care work and the potential labour in rural areas in order to make job opportunities in the area of care work more accessible for those who have already finished their migration process and will not be able to upskill any further or those who do not feel inclined towards entrepreneurship. This can provide women who are forced to remigrate as domestics, especially through familial connections, a chance to consider opportunities within a more familiar and safer setting.  Furthermore, additional research on socio-cultural dynamics within communities where female outmigration is prevalent is needed to provide context-sensitive policy actions.” (Colombo/Nov09/2023)

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Sri Lanka finding ways to clear 1.1mn pending cases: Justice Minister

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is taking a series of steps to speed up 1.1 million pending court cases and encourage alternative dispute solving mechanisms, Justice Minister Wijedasa Rajapakshe said.

“The delay in court cases is a serious problem,” Minister Rajapakshe told a briefing at the President’s Media Centre.

“We have already taken several steps to expedite cases.”

There were 5,680 cases in Supreme Court, 4,054 in the Court of Appeal, 6,168 in the High Court of Civil Appeal, 8,363 in the Commercial High Court, 28,000 in the High Court, 254,000 in District Courts and 791,000 in Magistrates Courts.

In 2015, only 49 percent of complaints to mediation boards were resolved. Following reforms, the ratio has been increased to 70 percent.

The value of disputes going to mediation board has been raised to one million rupees from 500,000 rupees.

To solve land problems in the post-war period, special mediation boards on property was set up in the North and the East.

Mediation boards on property will be set up in another 16 districts.

Commercial High Courts were increased to four from three.

Another Commercial High Court will be set up in the future. The consideration of cases that can go to a High Court was raised from 4 million rupees to 10 million rupees.

A commercial dispute resolution law will be introduced next January.

A small claims court has been established.

Case involving disputes below 2 million rupees can be directed to small claims court.

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Sri Lanka stocks close up as some investor interest returns

ECONOMYNEXT – The Colombo Stock Exchange closed up on Monday, CSE data showed.

The All Share Price Index was up 0.22 percent, or 23.33 points, at 10,743.59.

The S&P SL20 index was up 0.68 percent, or 20.60 points, at 3,067.73.

Turnover was at 708 million. The banks sector contributed 189 million, while the food, beverage and tobacco sector contributed 176 million of this.

Sri Lanka’s stock market has seen some investor interest return after last week’s news that the country had managed an agreement on a debt restructuring deal with an official creditor committee, and foreign funds for some development projects resumed.

Top positive contributors to the ASPI in the day were Sampath Bank Plc (up at 71.50), LOLC Holdings Plc (up at 379.00), and Commercial Bank of Ceylon Plc, (up at 90.90).

There was a net foreign outflow of 52 million.

Citrus Leisure Plc, which announced that its banquet hall and revolving restaurant at the Lotus Tower would launch on or around Dec 9, saw its share price rise to 6.20 rupees. (Colombo/Dec4/2023).

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Sri Lanka rupee closes broadly steady at 328.10/30 to the US dollar

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee closed at 328.10/30 to the US dollar on Monday, from 328.00/10 on Friday, dealers said.

Bond yields were stable.

A bond maturing on 01.06.2025 closed at 13.70/14.00 percent from 13.70/95 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.08.2026 closed at 13.90/14.10 percent from 13.90/14.05 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.01.2027 closed at 14.00/14.10 percent from 14.05/10 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2028 closed at 14.20/35 percent from 14.15/25 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2030 closed at 14.25/45 percent, from 14.20/45 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2032 closed at 14.05/40 percent, from 14.00/45 percent. (Colombo/Dec4/2023)

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