‘Industries and plantations hit by acute labour shortage’

By Maheesha Mudugamuwa

Sri Lanka’s industries and plantation sectors, are facing an acute labour shortage, with tea, rubber and coconut plantations proving to be particularly affected by the problem, senior Cabinet ministers said.

Education Minister S.B Dissanayake said that the labour shortage was a serious challenge that Sri Lanka faces in the development sphere at present.He added that the labour shortage in areas bordering the Western Province was particularly acute.

He told a media briefing in Colombo recently that the country’s unemployment rate had dropped to 4.6 percent last year and the debt to GDP ratio had gradually improved to 78 per cent last year.

The minister said that when the current opposition was in government in 2003, the debt to GDP ratio was at an unacceptably high level of 105 per cent. Even at the time this government came into office in 2005, the debt to GDP level was over 90 per cent.

"Our economic development rate was 7.2 last year which was the second best economic development rate in the world," Minister Dissanayake said.

He also stressed: "Children of our country are not interested in labour jobs and they are finding good jobs in the corporate field, while others are going to other countries for jobs, like Korea, Saudi Arabia."

Minor Export Crops Development Minister Reginald Cooray said that his ministry had recorded a 53 percent development rate in minor export crops last year.

He said that today, most of the plantation companies and smallholders face a crisis due to labour shortages.

Minister Cooray noted that the there was a shortage, especially of tea pluckers. The industry needs tea pluckers on a daily basis and the rubber industry needs rubber tappers.

"Some of the tappers demand half the harvest as wages," he said.

"Estate youth, who, in the past, sought work in the plantations are no longer interested, and a majority of them prefer to move out of estate life." cooray added.

Meanwhile, Environment and Renewable Energy Minister Susil Premajayantha said that there were over 200,000 vacancies in the apparel sector at present.

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