Context: The main engines of growth in Sri Lanka are agriculture, services and light industry. Agriculture accounts for approximately 21 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) and employs 38 per cent of the workforce. Manufacturing industries account for approximately 19 per cent of GDP and employ about 17 per cent of the workforce. The service sector, consisting of tourism, banking, finance and retail, is the largest component of Sri Lanka’s economy, employing 45 per cent of the workforce and contributing to roughly 60 per cent of GDP.
Implementation of programme/ initiative: Rapid development has provided new kinds of work opportunities but they are not accessible to many Sri Lankan youth because they lack the requisite knowledge and competencies. On average, 185,000 school leavers annually join the labour force in Sri Lanka. In order to encourage optimum success in their careers, the Department of Manpower and Employment provides a variety of support mechanisms to help young people transition from school to work.
Among other functions, the Department provides career guidance services to youth and collects, analyses and disseminates labour market information. Along with in-person public employment services (PES), the Department also offers online support, including a database of training institutes, job vacancies and job seekers. Additionally, the Department partners with stakeholders to facilitate employability enhancing programmes.
Main challenges: Based on the evaluation of the Department, job seekers and job providers have encountered several challenges. From the perspective of job seekers, some participants have voiced concerns that training for soft skills development and entrepreneurship have been absent. Furthermore, they have felt that the career guidance and counselling services offered could be expanded. As for job providers, they have found locating suitable employees had been difficult, indicating a need to better promote registering on the website. They have also found it challenging to assess the qualifications of candidates, signalling the need for standardized qualifications verification. Lastly, job providers have noted that not all citizens can easily access these services due to geographic isolation and/or lack of ICT infrastructure.
Results achieved: The online component of the Sri Lanka’s PES (e-PES) has been greatly successful with 16,530 job seekers registered on the website. Additionally, 25 human resource and development officers have been recruited and appointed to divisional secretariats, thereby expanding the geographic reach of PES offered in Sri Lanka. The Department continuously monitors and updates labour demand via a biannual survey, which has increased the amount and quality of vital labour market information available. A job profile on the construction industry was added to the e-PES to aid in developing the competencies of employers in the construction field. Results from a job profile survey of the health sector have been published to widen the amount of information available to users.
Moving Forward: The Department of Manpower and Employment plans to create a registry of youth in education, which aims to make support for the school-to-work transition better timed and more inclusive. Through this registry the hope is to reduce the amount of time young people spend looking for a job by aiding in job matching. Another area the Department hopes to expand on is the introduction of soft skills into training programmes.
Replicability: Two of the unique components of Sri Lanka’s PES are the geographic reach and use of ICT. The provision of subnational PES hubs is helpful in ensuring the services match not only the national needs but also the local context. Launching an online PES system also improves youth’s access to employment services and increases its efficiency in job matching by partially automating the process. An online database also offers the advantage of being able to easily compile statistics related to the effectiveness of the programme, ensuring better monitoring.
The Department of Manpower and Employment (Sri Lanka)
Date: February 14, 2017