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 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 for 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 labor such as packager, assembler, or apprentice, or farm worker. 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 average salaries when compared to other workers. Jobs performed by unskilled workers are sometimes labeled “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 of Classification of Occupations (ISCO 08).Therefore elementary occupations could be obtained through the Labour Force Survey conducted by Department of Census and Statistics by annually . Also unskilled unemployed labour force could be found using unemployed labour force who has not followed a vocational training. It could be obtained through the Labour Market Information Bulletin published by TVEC by annually. 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 1st quarter of year 2020, labour force is 8,503,617 and estimated unskilled Labour force is 2,129,672. Therefore percentage unskilled labour force out of total labour force of 1st quarter of year 2020 is around 25%. Out of 25% unskilled labour force 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% youth (age 15 – 24 yrs), 2.44% is in 25-29 yrs age group and 5.32% is in 30-39 yrs age group but majority (14.66%) could be 40+ yrs age group. Out of 25% of unskilled labourforce majority (22.17%) is represent the grade 10 or below educational level and rest (2.87%) is represent G.C.E O/L or above education level. Out of 25% unskilled labourforce highest percentage of unskilled labourforce is reported from Western province (6.4%) followed by Central province (4.52%) and lowest unskilled labourforce is reported from Northern Province. Also comparison with districts, highest percentage of unskilled labourforce is reported from Gampaha district (2.61%) followed by Nuwara Eliya district (2.32%) and lowest unskilled labourforce is reported from Mannar district (0.04%). 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 reduce the unskilled labour force to 20%, 5% of existing unskilled labour force could 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 should be identified prioritized economic sectors for 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 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 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 suitable NVQ level for make cinnamon extraction and preparation a respectable job. Therefore considerable percentage out of 5.32% unskilled labourforce in 30 to 40 yrs age group in Kandy, Mathale district and hill side in Matara, Galle districts could be skilled in above technical training for make cinnamon extraction and preparation. As per the chapter 5 of “Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour” under the construction industry it is expected to address the issue of labour , 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 considerable percentage of 2.87% unskilled labourforce 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 22.17% 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 next decade in Sri Lanka.

Annex-1

Profile of Unskilled Labour force in Sri Lanka

  • Labourforce 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

726,967

           1,228,425

742,667

           1,219,066

737,008

8.67

34.61

Grade 6 - 10

   3,784,587

1,132,205

           3,866,319

1,156,655

           3,836,862

1,147,844

13.50

53.90

G.C.E.(O/L)

   1,530,480

135,787

           1,563,532

138,720

           1,551,620

137,663

1.62

6.46

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

   1,870,235

105,697

           1,910,626

107,980

           1,896,069

107,157

1.25

5.03

Total

8,387,759

       2,100,656

8,568,902

   2,146,022

8,503,617

         2,129,672

             25.04

100.00

Note: all the unskilled parameters were manipulated based on assuming “Elementary occupation” parameters of 2011 LFS are same as the unskilled labour force parameters of recent years

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

189,623

                           988,858

188,178

2.21

8.84

Gampaha

             907,018

224,095

                           900,107

222,388

2.61

10.44

Kalutara

             509,082

135,555

                           505,203

134,522

1.58

6.32

Central

Kandy

             551,808

137,940

                           547,604

136,889

1.61

6.43

Matale

             213,953

51,270

                           212,323

50,879

0.60

2.39

Nuwara Eliya

             346,282

199,213

                           343,644

197,696

2.32

9.28

Southern

Galle

             433,642

138,819

                           430,338

137,761

1.62

6.47

Matara

             341,770

98,455

                           339,166

97,705

1.15

4.59

Hambantota

             260,136

49,302

                           258,154

48,926

0.57

2.30

Northern

Jaffna

             221,850

31,903

                           220,159

31,660

0.37

1.49

Mannar

               40,108

3,256

                             39,802

3,231

0.04

0.15

Vavuniya

               70,754

10,705

                             70,215

10,623

0.12

0.50

Mullaitivu

               35,500

5,407

                             35,230

5,366

0.06

0.25

Kilinochchi

               40,030

6,033

                             39,725

5,987

0.07

0.28

Eastern

Batticaloa

             194,457

47,708

                           192,975

47,345

0.56

2.22

Ampara

             239,974

63,969

                           238,146

63,481

0.75

2.98

Trincomalee

             130,381

22,773

                           129,388

22,599

0.27

1.06

North Western

Kurunegala

             708,743

153,641

                           703,343

152,470

1.79

7.16

Puttalam

             332,900

106,864

                           330,364

106,050

1.24

4.98

North Central

Anuradhapura

             386,050

40,992

                           383,109

40,680

0.48

1.91

Polonnaruwa

             162,986

32,416

                           161,745

32,169

0.38

1.51

Uwa

Badulla

             371,718

137,200

                           368,886

136,154

1.60

6.39

Moneragala

             189,614

44,385

                           188,170

44,046

0.52

2.07

Sabaragamuwa

Ratnapura

             509,827

113,907

                           505,943

113,041

1.34

5.31

Kegalle

             373,869

100,591

                           371,021

99,826

1.18

4.68

Total

         8,568,902

                                         2,146,022

8,503,617

                     2,129,672

25.04

                   100.00

Note: all the unskilled parameters were manipulated based on assuming “Elementary occupation” parameters of 2011 LFS are same as the unskilled labour force parameters of recent years

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.( For Table 1 and Table 2 only)

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 and macro data collected from 2011 LFS conducted by Department of Census and Statistics of Sri Lanka.

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