Dona Senara explores the reasons why Sri Lankan youth are migrating in droves

The continuous migration of Sri Lankans has been a rising issue, which the island nation has been facing for a very long time. However, in recent years there’s been a massive wave of migrants from Sri Lanka comprising predominantly the youth of the country.

And the latest socioeconomic statistics and labour force surveys have illustrated a significant upsurge, in relation to their population, in departures abroad of young people aged 15-29 years.

To further reinforce this, the Sri Lanka Opinion Tracker Survey conducted by the Institute for Health Policy suggests that Sri Lankans aged 18-29 years have the highest desire to migrate overseas. Undoubtedly, a substantial segment of the island’s youth population seems dissatisfied with the opportunities available for education and careers in the country.

Brain drain is highly detrimental since human capital is an essential resource for any nation. And this depletion has already started to impact the country.

Data from the Department of Immigration and Emigration shows that more than 700,000 passports had been issued in the first nine months of this year compared to last year when about 382,000 were issued. Reportedly, over 21,000 Sri Lankan students are travelling abroad to pursue their higher education annually.

Technology can create dissatisfaction in people especially youth, who are frequently exposed to the external world through this same technology. And this dissatisfaction can eventually generate a desire for emigration. Young people feel obliged to explore dynamic opportunities overseas that may not be present in a developing nation such as Sri Lanka. As such, migration for higher education and employment has become a popular option for many Sri Lankans.

With regard to local education, certain factors show that pursuing higher education in Sri Lanka can be undesirable due to the lack of technical facilities, limited choice of programmes, outdated teaching methods, slow examination reviewing processes, matriculation difficulties and longer programme durations.

As a result, these issues create peer pressure and many young Sri Lankans feel compelled to leave the country even though they may not necessarily want to.

Though Sri Lanka can’t stop the outflow of its citizens, it can engage with youth migrants to promote development through return migration, remittances and investment as suggested by the Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka.

Even though the stock of human capital can be increased by returning migrants who have honed their knowledge and skills, it is still a challenge to convince them to stay on in Sri Lanka owing to the possible disparity in acquired skills, expectations and labour market demands.

Consequently, it’s crucial to create opportunities for young people especially, in the fields of science and technology, which will pave the way to ingenuity and innovation particularly in the country. By doing so, not only the youth currently residing in the island but also those beyond, will feel motivated to step up to the plate and help their motherland develop.

If Sri Lanka is to satisfy and retain its youth, young people must be provided with stability and hope.

To begin with, this welfare nation must imbue citizens with the importance of fulfilling their responsibility to their homeland particularly since many Sri Lankans are recipients of the country’s free public services that are provided to them from the cradle to the grave.

As a means of stemming the outflow of human capital and the resultant brain drain, the country needs to reinforce a feeling of nationalism among its people. Learning the value and dignity of being Sri Lan­kan from a young age can assist in the development of citizens who are willing to dedicate their lives to building up their nation.