Context: In the Sri Lankan context, the overall labour force participation rate for 2015 (persons aged over 15) was 53.6 per cent, disaggregated for gender it was 75.4 per cent for males and 35.2 per cent for females. In terms of geographic location, the labour force participation rate was 54.3 per cent in rural areas and 67.3 in urban areas. The overall unemployment rate in Sri Lanka for 2015 was 4.3 per cent compared to 16.7 per cent for youth. At the same time, there are several positive indicators including a literacy rate of 93.3 per cent and high performance in educational exams.
Implementation of programme/ initiative: The Government of Sri Lanka supports youth in their transition from school to work in a variety of ways primarily through the Ministry of Policy Planning and Economic Affairs and the National Youth Services Council (NYSC). The Government aims to inclusively target all youth in the country, working at both local and state levels, in rural and urban areas with females and males aged 15-29. Moreover, the Government helps to promote a smoother school-to-work transition including through the promotion of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), public and private employment services, youth entrepreneurship and by promoting youth as equal partners in the decision making process. To implement these activities, the Government draws on funds collected through tax revenue and foreign donations.
Main challenges: Employment creation becomes a problem due to inadequate infrastructure, a lack career guidance facilities and a mismatch between what is taught in school and the demands of the labour market. Some challenges to youth employment include changing attitudes, issues related to motivation and the quality of education and training. Youth entrepreneurship is one way to improve the situation of youth unemployment and for this to happen requires young people to develop a relevant skill set, knowledge, attitudes and values. For the purpose of overcoming these challenges, the Government introduced policies and programmes to promote training and development, strengthen private sector involvement, and improve equity and employability among young people.
Results achieved: The Government introduced a National Vocational Qualifications (NVQ) certification system which adds important legitimacy to training courses that youth take and thus improves their employability. Furthermore, the Government has introduced market oriented and accredited vocational training opportunities based on industry demand. Also, youth centric institutions were created that introduced career guidance and career counselling facilities. Partnering with the private sector, the number of apprenticeships, internships and training opportunities has increased. The NYSC and the Vocational Training Authority annually facilitate accredited vocational training for approximately 25,000 and 60,000 youth, respectively. On average, 80 per cent of participants secure employment after completing these vocational trainings.
Moving Forward: The problems faced by youth in Sri Lanka cannot be addressed in isolation from the general social and political context. Education is central in addressing youth employment; therefore, education should be accurately aligned with labour market demand. Economic reforms need to concentrate on planning that strengthens existing human resources in the country as well as creates a dynamic market place that allows for entrepreneurship initiatives. As a means to addressing youth unemployment, the Government plans to initiate a long term consultation process with youth on the type of employment creation needed.
Replicability: The research and efforts of the Government in Sri Lanka illustrate how important it is to reduce the transition time between school and work so as to make optimum use of youths’ talents. Particularly important is providing accurate labour market information that is easily accessible to young people, so that they can make informed decisions about what kind of training and education to pursue. Equally important to preparing youth for the labour market is providing them guidance via career counselling, which helps ensure they have accurate expectations about the job market.
Quarterly Report of the Sri Lanka Labour Force Survey, 2015. Department of Census and Statistics Sri Lanka. Socio Economic Data 2015 – Central Bank of Sri Lanka.
Date: December 8, 2016