Labour shortage: Immediate remedial measures needed, say Chamber chiefs | Sunday Observer

Labour shortage: Immediate remedial measures needed, say Chamber chiefs

The severe labour shortage experienced in key sectors of the economy will have adverse social and economic repercussions and immediate remedial action is necessary to mitigate this situation, leading Chamber chiefs who face the problem, told the Business Observer.

Sri Lanka will face a severe labour shortage in the near future and it is evident that in key industries such as tourism, construction, garment, plantation and services there is a shortage even at present, National Chamber of Exports (NCE) President Ramal Jasinghe said.

The export sector, in particular the garment industries are facing the labour problem where there are large vacancies for jobs such as machine operators and pattern designers. According to available data, some of the factories in Koggala Free Trade Zone are forced to close down due to labour shortages. The boat building industry also faces the same situation, he said.

“We also need to have a mechanism in place for the migrant workers who return to the country. They need to be absorb in to the workforce. The job profile needs careful consideration and society needs to recognize the labour force and re-examine the value given to the job titles,” he said.

Labour market mis-match

The NCE is taking up the challenge of finding solutions to the mis-match in the labour market and consider long term planning to overcome the labour issue. The young generation needs to be educated on the career prospects and provide guidance in this regard, he said.

“This labour shortage will lead to adverse economic and social repercussions and we need to take measures to mitigate the negative effect without further delay. One of the priority areas will be the skill development initiatives in this regard,” he said.

The NCE has taken steps to conduct skill development program with the Ministry of Skills Development and other government institutions as a remedial measure. “We need to recognise the ‘dignity of labour’, be it a white collar job or a blue colour job. It is essential that we treat all spectrum of labour in the same manner without any division. This will encourage the youth to seek employment in the sectors where there are huge number of vacancies at present,” he said.

While stressing the importance to groom the young talents to fill the labour market vacancies within the country, he said that importing labour is not the solution for this acute labour shortage.

Change of attitude needed

“The country needs a change in the mind set and the attitudes towards employment. It is not that we do not have jobs, but there are no takers. This gap should be met and for that positive attitude of the society is essential,” he said.

The mis-match in the labour market has been the hot topic at various fora conducted by the chamber and many industrialists have been affected by this. Our education system is not geared to produce the youth that required to fill the existing vacancies and this needs to be corrected, Ceylon National Chamber of Industries Secretary General Abeyratne Mutugala said.

“There are five categories of job seekers namely, youth from universities, other professional institutions, A/L and O/L drop-outs and unskilled labour. They join the external job market of the country every year. The problem is whether they are qualified to accept the available jobs or not. There are few areas of work where it is easy to find human resources, but not in the fields such as of IT and technical,” he said.

The country needs to have a strategy to attract early retired people to related job segments where vacancies exist. We also need to take measures to stop the brain drain where a large number of professionals leave the country regularly. We need to have a systematic approach to tackle this issue, he said.

Emphasising the fact that youth, especially the unskilled labour attracted to drive trishaws, is a huge social problem, he said that they engage in this vocation due to many reasons such as freedom , easy money and response from the customers.

“The labour shortage in the construction sector is skill related shortage and immediate measure should be taken to address this issue. There are short term and long term steps that could be taken to overcome the skill labour shortage,” Chamber of Construction Industries Sri Lanka President Ranjith Gunatilleke said.

One of the short term measures would be to convert unskilled labour to skill labour by providing training, guidance and assistance. The government and the private sector could provide this training by way of a PPP basis, he said.

“The construction industry in the country is booming and there are is a need for skilled labour. Therefore, it is important to produce this category of labour to the market. With regard to the Chinese investments, most of the construction related jobs are done by Chinese labourers because it is cost effective and their productivity is high. Therefore, these construction sites do not have labour problems,” he said.

Labour from Nepal

Where the BOI approved projects are concerned, they are allowed to bring down people through the CCISL. The approval is given to import labour from Nepal and Myanmar. However, labour is exported only from Nepal at present with the Chamber recommendation, he said adding that it cannot be continued in the long run.

“Our people should improve their skills. The concessions and incentives in the construction industry are attractive. There is a good future for the skill labour in this sector. However, the environment and the filed of work may not be comfortable as in other professions,” he said.

The workers in the construction industry will be looking for more benefits in terms of permanency in the employment, possibility of a pension scheme and sustainability. They may also be looking forward for job security and the industry needs to assure this. It is advisable, if possible to discourage youth seeking non-productive jobs as in the fields of providing security and working in restaurants, he said.

“As a long term measure we should re-think about our education system where skill development is not given priority. It should introduce skill trades such as hand craft as a subject and create interest among the youth to improve their skills in the chosen vocation. It is also necessary to have a monitoring system to ensure that the school drop-outs are given the required skills to start a livelihood in a productive manner which will support to address the skill labour shortage in the country,” he said.

According to the Census and Statistics Department data, labour force participation rate in Sri Lanka for the 2017 Q3 was 53.6 out of which 73.6 was male and 36.6 was female.

The unemployment rate for 2017 Q3 was 4.2 out of which 2.7 was male and 6.8 was female. The total employed population for 2017 Q 3 was a total of 8,163,869.There were 5,237,350 males and 2,926,489 females were employed in 2017 Q3.


Dear Sir According to my experienced,there is enough workers in Sri Lanka.But salary is not enough to live for them.Therefor people do not like to joint with companies.I think as a social media, you should emphasis it.Otherwise people misunderstand the situation and our job opportunity will go to the another country. I think, we should apply modern human resource management to develop workers skill.They should be motivated and show their future development development path and should give considerable salary for them.Otherwise any body will never joint with industries in Sri Lanka. Thank you very much for your attention Eng.N.M.Lasantha Mechanical Engineer.