Sri Lanka faces unemployment problem despite greater national workforce

Sri Lanka’s economically active population increased to 8.5 million during the fourth quarter of 2018 while the economically inactive population stood at 7.7 million, according to the Sri Lanka Labour Force Survey published by the Department of Census and Statistics.

The survey observes that a majority of Sri Lanka’s workforce are private sector employees. It also notes that male participation in the labour force has always exceeded female participation in all age groups.

Forty-seven percent of employed persons in Sri Lanka were engaged in the services sector while 28 percent and 26 percent were employed in the industry and agriculture sectors respectively. The agriculture and industry sectors witnessed a decline in employment compared to the fourth quarter of 2017 while services sector employment increased.

The survey also reveals that the unemployment rate among youth – i.e. between the ages of 15 and 24 – stood at 21.9 percent, representing the highest reported unemployment rate among all age groups. This youth unemployment crisis is attributed to the skills mismatch that continues to exist.

Moreover, the problem of unemployment is more acute in the case of educated females than educated males – a consistent observation in the results of previous survey rounds as well.