Creating an environment for productive jobs vital - EFC
The government's ten-year horizon development plan (Mahinda
Chintana), in its labour policy identifies employment generation as one
of the key policy directives that should be promoted by the government.
In addition, one of the main objectives of the National Human
Resources and Employment Policy, that was mooted last year was to
promote the attainment of full, productive and freely chosen employment
for all men and women in Sri Lanka.
Against this backdrop, we had some survey report findings that
revealed certain realities that we need to address immediately if we are
to achieve our development goals that have been identified by the policy
The Labour and Social Trends in Sri Lanka 2011 report that was
released a few months ago by the Ministry of Labour and Labour Relations
refers to the continuing decline of female labour participation in Sri
This is a matter of serious concern, especially considering the fact
that our female population is well educated and has the potential to
contribute to economic development.
Unfortunately, however, one of the main drawbacks that we have in
relation to promoting opportunities for women in employment is some of
the restrictions placed on women in employment by our outdated
legislation. Such legislation needs to be revised immediately if we are
to open more opportunities for women.
Part time work, flexible hours, working from home are work
arrangements that have not been envisaged in any of our legislation
covering work arrangements. In addition, restrictions on women working
in the night in respect of offices inhibit many investors, especially in
the IT enabled BPO and KPO industries in considering Sri Lanka as a
prime destination to set up companies.
The Employers' Federation of Ceylon has made representations to the
government to grant exemptions to women in IT enabled industries, in
terms of the law, to work during the night. Although all stakeholders
including trade unions do not have any legitimate reasons to oppose
These changes have still not seen the light of day in our statute
In this context, it is relevant to draw attention to the recent World
Development Report 2013 on 'Jobs'.
The report identifies jobs as being a cornerstone for development
with a pay off far beyond income alone. The report also identifies
improving employment opportunities for women in Sri Lanka as one of the
One of the three recommendations it makes to governments is that
governments should identify which jobs would do the most for development
given their specific country context and remove or offset obstacles to
private sector creation of such jobs.
This is what the Employers' Federation of Ceylon has been lobbying
for in the context of removing restrictions on night work for women in
offices in the IT enabled industry sectors.
Although May Day commemorates a day on which the workers fought for
their eight-hour working day, which signifies confrontation and conflict
with employers, we do not agree that a similar attitude prevails today
between the parties.
From confrontation and conflict we have moved to a culture of
collaboration and compromise. The workplace has become the centre of
gravity in employer relations. It is necessary for us to strengthen work
place relations through our regulatory framework so that it would enable
employers and workers to understand each other more closely and work
towards the betterment of the organisation.
Creating an enabling environment is a top priority which needs to be
done by policymakers. Sri Lanka has been inundated with many policy
frameworks in the area of employment during the past two decades.
Policies are important, but more importantly, what is needed is to
translate these policies into affirmative action.
Let us hope that the commemoration of May Day will motivate the
social partners, and more importantly the policy makers to do what needs
to be done before it becomes too late. (EFC media release)