ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka women are kept out of the workforce due to unpaid care work for the children and the elderly, researchers told a public forum in Colombo.
“Currently, women bear a disproportionate burden of care work,” Thathsarani Siriwardena, a researcher at Advocata Advocata Institute, a Colombo-based think tank said.
“In comparison to men, women spend three hours and twelve minutes more engaging in domestic work.”
Female workers compensation is also low, putting day-care out of their reach.
The cost of day-care in Sri Lanka is between 22,400 and 27,000 rupees a month, while the median income of a woman is 25,500, Dissanayaka said.
She was speaking at a forum hosted by Women’s Policy Action Network, a policy action group supported by the Netherlands, and Advocata Institute.
Unequal responsibility of unpaid care work has kept women out of the workplace, a World Bank report also said.
“That’s one of the reasons the female labour force hasn’t gone beyond 30 to 35 per cent,” former Mayor of Colombo, Rosy Senanayake, told the forum.
A report by the International Labour Organisation showed that about 62.8 percent of women stayed economically inactive due to domestic responsibilities and unpaid care work.
“Also, in comparison to men, women spend 54 minutes providing unpaid care services such as taking care of elderly and children,” Siriwardena said.
Elderly care was also a contributing factor as there were limited elderly care facilities in the country.
Advocata confirmed that there are 225 elders’ homes in the country; five of which are State-run. 50 percent of these elderly care centres are in the Western Province.
“In provinces such as Sabaragamuwa and Southern, the elderly population is higher than in the Western Province,” Siriwardena said.
The care of the elderly in Sri Lanka is regulated by the provisions of the Rights of Elders Act and the Protection of the Rights of Elders Act. In 2017, the National Elderly Health Policy of Sri Lanka was launched.
“Elderly care should be regulated by the State,” Siriwardena said. “The existing infrastructure is just five State-run care centres. Secondly, the State should increase their funding for more elderly care centres. Thirdly, elder care centres should be more accessible, not just to the Western Province.” (Colombo/September16/2023)