Towards a Skilled Labor Force by 2030 - An Invitation for a Discussion

There is no any specific definition to identify unskilled labour force in Sri Lanka. But according to the Labour force definition there are two types of categories that could be identified as employed labour force and unemployed labour force. Therefore, it can be assumed that two types of unskilled labour forces are there as unskilled employed labour force and unskilled unemployed labour force. According to the UN definition, an unskilled employee (worker), “is an employee who does not use reasoning or intellectual abilities in their line of work. These workers are typically found in positions that involve manual labour such as packaging, assembling, or apprentice, or farm working. Unskilled jobs usually do not require formal education and can be performed by the majority of individuals. Due to the fact that their jobs do not require high levels of education or training, unskilled workers tend to earn lower than the average salaries when compared to other workers. Jobs performed by unskilled workers are sometimes labeled as “blue collar” jobs by mainstream society. Unskilled workers often work in environments where they are exposed to unsafe conditions on a regular basis”. Therefore unskilled employees could be found in the occupational category in “Elementary Occupation” that define in the International Standard Classification of Occupations (ISCO 08).Therefore, elementary occupations could be obtained through the Labour Force Survey conducted by Department of Census and Statistics. Also, unskilled unemployed labour force could be found by using unemployed labour force who has not followed a vocational training. It could be obtained through the Labour Market Information Bulletin published by TVEC. Therefore, combination of both categories is considered as unskilled labour force in Sri Lanka. Accordingly, characteristics of unskilled labour force are manipulated.

According to the Labour Force Survey data of the 1st quarter of year 2020, the labour force is 8,503,617 and estimated unskilled labour force is 2,129,672. Thereby, the percentage of unskilled labour force out of the total labour force for the 1st quarter of year 2020 is around 25%. Out of the 25% the unskilled labour force the majority could be identified as Male (16.45%) and rest is female (8.59%). According to the age group of unskilled labour force, 2.62% of youth belongs to the age group 15 – 24 yrs, 2.44% is in 25-29 years age group and 5.32% is in 30-39 years age group while the majority (14.66%) could be in the 40+ years age group. Out of 25% of unskilled labour force the majority (14.89%) is represent the grade 10 or below educational level and rest (10.15%) is represent from the G.C.E O/L or above education level. Out of 25% unskilled labour force, the highest percentage of unskilled labour force is reported from Western province (7.05%) followed by Central province (3.25%) and lowest unskilled labour force is reported from Northern Province. Also in comparison with districts, highest percentage of unskilled labour force is reported from Colombo district (2.91%) followed by Gampaha district (2.65%) and lowest unskilled labour force is reported from Mullativu district (0.1%). (See Annex-1 (Table 1, Table 2, Table 3 and Table 4) for more information statistics.)

Acceding to the “Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour” the President is targeting to reduce the unskilled labour force to 20% within the first two years (by 2022) and to bring it down to 10% by 2025. In order to achieve the 2022 target of reducing the unskilled labour force to 20%, 5% of existing unskilled labour force need to be skilled and in order to achieve 2025 target, another 10% of unskilled labour force should be converted in to skilled labour force. Hence, it is needed to identify the prioritized economic sectors for the next decade. According to the “Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour” the President is targeting High tech integrated Agriculture based economy in next decade; it is expected to get the youth participation on new technological Agriculture farming such as Green house agriculture, Hydroponics agriculture and Aquaponics agriculture. Therefore, considerable percentage out of 2.62% of youth (irrespective of gender) unskilled labour force and considerable percentage of unskilled labour force in age group 25-29(irrespective of gender) could be skilled in above mentioned agricultural framings with integrated new technology. This type of agricultural based skilled training could be carried out for the unskilled labour force in coastal districts and in Anuradhpura, Polonnaruwa, Kurunegala and Puttalama districts etc. Also according to “Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour” in chapter 5, it is expecting to develop technical training course with a suitable NVQ level in order to the convert cinnamon extraction and preparation to a respectable job. Therefore, a considerable percentage out of 5.32% unskilled labour force in 30 to 40 years age group in Kandy, Matale, Matara and Galle districts could be skilled in above technical. As per the chapter 5 of “Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour” under the construction industry, it is expected to address the issue of labour in this industry. The investment assistance required for them to move to technical solutions to address labour shortage will be provided. The Government will also create facilities to train workers for the machinery to be increasingly used in the industry and the youth will be trained to take up jobs in technical grades and there will also be training of required technologists. Therefore, a considerable percentage of 10.15% unskilled labour force in G.C.E. O/L or above category in Colombo, Gampaha and Kalutara districts could be skilled into the machinery training to be used in the industry as well as trained for technical grades. Also according to “Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour” in chapter 5 under the Tourism industry, it is expected to take actions to increase the numbers, with and without training, serving in the tourism industry up to million workers and a preliminary diploma course will be initiated to train the youth currently engaged in tour services and those interested in joining the field who do not have the O-level qualifications demanded by existing diplomas. Hence considerable percentage out of 14.89% unskilled labour force in grade 10 or below education category (irrespective of gender) in coastal districts could be skilled in above mentioned specific sectors. Therefore, Agriculture, Construction and Tourism sectors are most reliable sectors for unskilled labour force to train and engage in skilled employment in the next decade in Sri Lanka.

Research Team

NHRDC

 

Annex-1

Profile of Unskilled Labour force in Sri Lanka

  • Labour force in 1st Quarter 2020 – 8,503,617
  • Unskilled Labour force 1st Quarter 2020 – 2,129,672
  • % Unskilled Labour force out of total Labour Force –  25.04

 

Table 1 -Unskilled labour force with respect to Gender

Gender

2019Q4

2020Q1

 

Labourforce

Unskilled

Labourforce

Unskilled

% Unskilled/Labourforce

% Unskilled/ Total Unskilled

 
 

Male

5,530,953

1,385,189

5,585,314

  1,398,803

16.45

65.68

 

Female

3,037,949

760,833

2,918,304

      730,869

8.59

34.32

 

Total

8,568,902

           2,146,022

8,503,617

  2,129,672

25.04

100.00

 

Table 2 - Unskilled labour force with respect to Age group

Age group

2019Q4

2020Q1

Labourforce

Unskilled

Labourforce

Unskilled

% Unskilled/Labourforce

% Unskilled/ Total Unskilled

15 - 19 YRS

177,606

               44,480

          176,253

          44,141

0.52

2.07

20 - 24 YRS

719,914

             180,297

          714,429

       178,924

2.10

8.40

25 - 29 YRS

835,234

             209,179

          828,870

       207,585

2.44

9.75

30 - 39 YRS

1,820,274

             455,875

      1,806,406

       452,402

5.32

21.24

40 + YRS

5,015,874

         1,256,191

      4,977,659

    1,246,620

14.66

58.54

Total

8,568,902

         2,146,022

      8,503,617

    2,129,672

25.04

100.00

 

Table 3- Unskilled labour force with respect to Educational Attainment

Level of Education

2018

2019Q4

2020Q1

labor force

Unskilled

labor force

Unskilled

labor force

Unskilled

% Unskilled/Labourforce

% Unskilled/ Total Unskilled

Grade 5 and below

   1,202,457

           301,147

            1,228,425

        307,651

           1,219,066

             305,307

                3.59

14.34

Grade 6 - 10

   3,784,587

           947,824

            3,866,319

        968,293

           3,836,862

             960,916

              11.30

45.12

G.C.E.(O/L)

   1,530,480

           383,298

            1,563,532

        391,576

           1,551,620

             388,592

                4.57

18.25

G.C.E.(A/L) & above

   1,870,235

           468,387

            1,910,626

        478,502

           1,896,069

             474,857

                5.58

22.30

Total

8,387,759

        2,100,656

8,568,902

    2,146,022

8,503,617

         2,129,672

              25.04

100.00

 

Table 4 -Unskilled labour force with respect to Districts

Province

District

2019Q4

2020Q1

Labourforce

Unskilled

Labourforce

Unskilled

% Unskilled/Labourforce

% Unskilled/Total Unskilled

Western

Colombo

              996,450

                                           249,554

                           988,858

                          247,653

                  2.91

                      11.63

Gampaha

              907,018

                                           227,156

                           900,107

                          225,426

                  2.65

                      10.58

Kalutara

              509,082

                                           127,496

                           505,203

                          126,525

                  1.49

                        5.94

Central

Kandy

              551,808

                                           138,196

                           547,604

                          137,144

                  1.61

                        6.44

Matale

              213,953

                                              53,583

                           212,323

                            53,175

                  0.63

                        2.50

Nuwara Eliya

              346,282

                                              86,724

                           343,644

                            86,063

                  1.01

                        4.04

Southern

Galle

              433,642

                                           108,603

                           430,338

                          107,775

                  1.27

                        5.06

Matara

              341,770

                                              85,594

                           339,166

                            84,942

                  1.00

                        3.99

Hambantota

              260,136

                                              65,149

                           258,154

                            64,653

                  0.76

                        3.04

Northern

Jaffna

              221,850

                                              55,561

                           220,159

                            55,137

                  0.65

                        2.59

Mannar

                40,108

                                              10,045

                             39,802

                               9,968

                  0.12

                        0.47

Vavuniya

                70,754

                                              17,720

                             70,215

                            17,585

                  0.21

                        0.83

Mullaitivu

                35,500

                                                8,891

                             35,230

                               8,823

                  0.10

                        0.41

Kilinochchi

                40,030

                                              10,025

                             39,725

                               9,949

                  0.12

                        0.47

Eastern

Batticaloa

              194,457

                                              48,700

                           192,975

                            48,329

                  0.57

                        2.27

Ampara

              239,974

                                              60,100

                           238,146

                            59,642

                  0.70

                        2.80

Trincomalee

              130,381

                                              32,653

                           129,388

                            32,404

                  0.38

                        1.52

North Western

Kurunegala

              708,743

                                           177,500

                           703,343

                          176,147

                  2.07

                        8.27

Puttalam

              332,900

                                              83,373

                           330,364

                            82,737

                  0.97

                        3.88

North Central

Anuradhapura

              386,050

                                              96,683

                           383,109

                            95,947

                  1.13

                        4.51

Polonnaruwa

              162,986

                                              40,819

                           161,745

                            40,508

                  0.48

                        1.90

Uwa

Badulla

              371,718

                                              93,094

                           368,886

                            92,385

                  1.09

                        4.34

Moneragala

              189,614

                                              47,488

                           188,170

                            47,126

                  0.55

                        2.21

Sabaragamuwa

Ratnapura

              509,827

                                           127,683

                           505,943

                          126,710

                  1.49

                        5.95

Kegalle

              373,869

                                              93,633

                           371,021

                            92,920

                  1.09

                        4.36

Total

          8,568,902

                                        2,146,022

8,503,617

                      2,129,672

                25.04

                    100.00

 

5. Population Projections for year 2030

  • Projected Population for year 2030 – 22,513,000
  • Estimated Labour force for year 2030 – 8,714,057
  • Estimated Unskilled Labour force for year 2030 – 2,182,375

Note:

1. All the Unskilled parameters are calculated based on assuming available Labour force parameters of latest year are same as the Unskilled labour force parameters.

2. Population projection was done using The World Bank website [Population estimates and projections]

Link - https://databank.worldbank.org/source/population-estimates-and-projections

3.  Secondary data for Labour force were obtained through the Quarterly Labour Force Survey reports of 1st Quarter of year 2020, 4th quarter of year 2019 and annual Labour force survey report of year 2018 conducted by Department of Census and Statistics of Sri Lanka.

 

 

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