Sri Lanka continues to recover from a long and brutal civil war (1983–2009) between the ruling Buddhist Sinhalese and the primarily Hindu Tamil minority. During the conflict, which penetrated all areas of society, more than 70,000 people were killed and hundreds of thousands of Tamils were confined to refugee camps, the Solidarity Center writes:
Following the government victory over the Tamils, civil society began to mend. Yet the environment for economic growth and investment has not yet translated into economic success for ordinary Sri Lankans. Only 56 percent of the working age population is employed, with unemployment rates highest among women and youth. About 9 percent of Sri Lankans live below the poverty line, and public spending on social safety net programs has decreased as a percentage of gross domestic product from 2.2 percent in 2004 to 0.3 percent in 2009.
The Solidarity Center recently conducted an informal survey of working conditions in Jaffna, capital of Sri Lanka’s Northern Province, to better understand workers’ awareness of their rights and the benefits of the country’s labor code, which sets a minimum wage, limitations on daily working hours, and rules pertaining to overtime and benefits. Survey results indicate that the vast majority of workers in Jaffna are unaware of their statutory rights, with many working in low-paid jobs that have minimal labor standards, social protection, and security of tenure. The Solidarity Center report, Workers in Post-Civil War Jaffna: A Snapshot of Working Conditions, Opportunities and Inequalities in Northern Sri Lanka, highlights employment issues and gaps that exist in Jaffna and, by extension, the Northern and Eastern provinces, which require urgent attention in order to grow the country’s economy and address the inequities that have the potential to stoke social conflict.
At a forthcoming event, the Solidarity Center’s Asia Regional Program Director Tim Ryan will discuss the survey findings and their implications on promoting decent work and creating sustainable livelihoods. The Solidarity Center anticipates that the report will assist stakeholders – unions, employers, the Sri Lankan government, nongovernmental organizations, and donor agencies – in efforts to advance the protection and promotion of labor policies and practices in the post-civil war economic and social development of Jaffna and beyond.
The National Endowment for Democracy and the Solidarity Center invite you to
Asia Regional Program Director, Solidarity Center
Senior Program Officer, National Endowment for Democracy
Friday, July 15, 2016
National Endowment for Democracy
1025 F St NW, 8th Floor, Washington, DC.