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Women’s increasing vulnerability and COVID-19

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Sri Lanka’s Gender-based Employment Segregation

By Sunimalee Madurawala

Although COVID-19 may be gender-blind, it has created a crisis that has disproportionately affected women across the globe. The economic impact of the pandemic is mostly channelled through the labour market. Estimates show that women’s jobs are 1.8 times more vulnerable than men’s jobs, and while women make up 39% of global employment, they account for 54% of overall job losses. While many factors affect the vulnerability of women’s employment during the pandemic, existing gender gaps in the labour market, women’s employment share in highly-affected sectors, the ability to telecommute and the amount of unpaid care work carried out by women have been identified as the main determinants. In this context, this blog examines women’s vulnerability in the Sri Lankan labour market due to the sector they are employed in. It also looks at gender-based employment segregation – a key factor behind women’s overrepresentation in certain industries and underrepresentation in others – and proposes policy measures to address this imbalance.

Impact of COVID-19 on Employed Women in Sri Lanka

A comparison of labour market figures and indicators for Sri Lanka for the fourth quarters of 2019 and 2020 shows a severe impact on women (Figure 1). While the absolute number of employed men has increased by 38,938, the number of employed females has decreased by 189,148. The number of economically inactive persons has increased between the years. Females account for 64% of that increase in economically inactive persons. The labour force participation (LFP) rates for both sexes have decreased significantly but the fall is more prominent for women. The unemployment rate has increased for both sexes during the period, whereas the increase for men is marginally higher than that for females attesting to the lowered LFP of women.

The Sector Matters­­

The greater impact on employed women due to the pandemic is linked directly with the sectors they are employed in. Calculations of the author on women’s employment in Sri Lanka based on an assessment by the International Labour Organization indicate that their employment share is high in both low-risk and high-risk economic sectors (Figure 2).

Manufacturing (including the sub-sector of textile manufacturing), accommodation and food services, and wholesale and retail are high-risk sectors with relatively high female employment shares. Female representation is relatively high in some medium-high risk and medium risks sectors such as ‘arts, entertainment, recreation, and other services’ and ‘financial and insurance activities’, respectively, as well. Even though health is a low-risk sector, women employed in the health sector face a higher risk of contagion.

Gender-based Employment Segregation – a Cause for Women’s Employment Vulnerability?

Gender-based employment segregation – ‘the unequal distribution of men and women across and within job types’, is often the major reason for women’s (or men’s) over-representation in certain sectors. In most cases, especially for females, their choice of employment is linked with the traditional gender roles they play in society (i.e. direct and indirect care responsibilities such as caring for children, the elderly, and the sick, cleaning, cooking, shopping, and fetching water and fuel). For example, in Sri Lanka, the female share in several frontline occupations is high (i.e., health professionals, health-related professionals, and care workers). These occupations are directly linked with women’s traditional gender roles.

Gender-based employment segregation creates unfavourable labour market conditions such as gender gaps in wages, job quality and employment trajectories. Demand-side factors, as well as supply-side factors, limit women’s choice in selecting an employment sector, thus causing employment segregation. Gender gaps in skills and qualifications, domestic and care responsibilities, safety (i.e. harassment at workplaces and when using public transport) issues, and lack of role models and networks are some important supply-side factors. Gender biases in recruitment, evaluation and promotion processes, employers’ perceptions of women employees (where employers perceive women employees as more suitable for certain types of jobs) and features of the workplace culture are important demand-side factors.

Way Forward 

Both training in hard skills and soft skills would increase women’s chances of securing employment in fields traditionally dominated by males. Specific interventions that reduce and redistribute women’s domestic and care responsibilities (i.e. expanding access to key infrastructure for care and investing in labour-saving technology, and redistributing care responsibilities between men and women within households and between households and state and other institutions) would lessen the burden of care responsibilities borne by women. This would create an enabling environment for women to participate in labour market activities and to expand the array of employment options available for them.

Strengthening the legal framework and law enforcement mechanisms is important to ensure the safety of working women both at the workplace and when travelling to work. Furthermore, promoting female role models who have succeeded in traditionally male-dominated sectors would inspire women to choose such careers. In addition, establishing workplace cultures that practice gender-blind recruitment, evaluation, and promotion processes are needed to curtail demand-side factors of gender-based employment segregation.

* This blog is based on the comprehensive chapter on “The COVID-19 Pandemic and Employed Women: Ensuring Gender Equality beyond the Pandemic” in IPS’ forthcoming annual flagship publication ‘Sri Lanka: The State of Economy 2021’.

Link to blog: https://www.ips.lk/talkingeconomics/2021/09/07/sri-lankas-gender-based-employment-segregation-does-it-increase-womens-vulnerability-amidst-covid-19/

Sunimalee Madurawala is a Research Economist at IPS. Her research interests include health economics, gender and population studies. Sunimalee holds a BA (Economics Special) with First Class Honours and a Masters in Economics (MEcon) from the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka. (Talk to Sunimalee – sunimalee@ips.lk)



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DIMO CERTIFIED guarantees peace of mind for vehicle owners seeking a luxury upgrade

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DIMO, one of the leading conglomerates in Sri Lanka, is providing customers who are planning to buy pre-owned luxury vehicles, with speedy, hassle-free, trusted service, through its pre-owned vehicle sales arm ‘DIMO CERTIFIED’.

With the re-launch of DIMO CERTIFIED in 2019, the company has expanded its range of pre-owned vehicles beyond Mercedes-Benz & Jeep models by also offering hand-picked and well-maintained Luxury European vehicle brands registered within the past 10 years, under one roof.

With its 80 year history, DIMO offers unparalleled trust and reliability of expertise in the automotive industry where all vehicles come with a minimum of One Year warranty against unlimited mileage. All vehicles handpicked by DIMO CERTIFIED are guaranteed to have genuine mileage with precise servicing and maintenance since the day of import to the country. Vehicles that are bought from DIMO CERTIFIED are assured of a high resale value due to the comprehensive checks done at the time of purchase for resale and thereafter being refurbished to a standard ‘as Good as New’. In the event the new buyer is selling the vehicle at some point in the future, DIMO CERTIFIED also offers a guaranteed buy back facility.

Customers can avail themselves to attractive Personal Contract Plans with lowest interest rates from some of Sri Lanka’s leading financial institutions where they can drive away in their new Luxury European vehicle by making only a 30% down payment. In the event the buyer decides to upgrade to another vehicle prior to the end of the leasing period, DIMO will also step in to settle the balance payment immediately and extend the opportunity to trade-in for another vehicle of their choice.

The highly-reliable DIMO 24-hour Roadside Assistance provides customers ‘peace of mind’ wherever they travel in their vehicle as expert help during a rare breakdown is only a phone call away.

General Manager – DIMO CERTIFIED Pre-Owned Vehicles of DIMO, Tharanga Gunawardena stated, “We have been able to successfully elevate the pre-owned business to a whole new level through our DIMO CERTIFIED service. We have enhanced our services by adding several attractive features to set the benchmark for the automobile industry. Those who want to realize their aspiration of owning a Mercedes-Benz, Jeep or any other Luxury European vehicle need not look elsewhere.”

All the vehicles available at DIMO CERTIFIED along with special offers are displayed on the www.carsatdimo.lk website and provides a hassle-free way for prospective buyers to access all key details. Customers are assured of the best prices when purchasing their vehicle while special trade-in options are also available for regular customers. With highly-experienced technical professionals providing the best after-sales service, DIMO CERTIFIED customers can enjoy a hassle-free experience with their Luxury European vehicle. A dedicated WhatsApp number 0771449797 has been made available for customers to contact a Sales Consultant directly to enquire about any product or offer listed on the website.

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Women in Management, IFC and Government of Australia recognise inspiring women from Sri Lanka and Maldives

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The ‘Top50’ Professional and Career Women Awards 2021 – hosted by Women in Management (WIM), in collaboration with Women in Work, a partnership between IFC and the government of Australia – recently honoured inspiring professional and career women in Sri Lanka and Maldives making a mark in their respective fields.

The 11th edition of the awards ceremony celebrated women representing a wide array of professions from industries including hospitality, banking and finance, logistics and supply chains, entrepreneurship, and media and law, among others, for excellence in either their chosen careers or for inspiring women in their community. The awards also lauded Sri Lankan corporates that have supported the growth and empowerment of women in the workplace.

Top awards were conferred to Dr. Maheshi Ramasamy (Inspirational Professional Woman of the Year), Prof. Nadira Karunaweera (Inspirational Woman of the Year), Aruni Goonetilleke (Trail Blazer), Randhula De Silva (Game Changer of the Year) and Dr. Vajira Chithrasena (Judges Award). The full list of awardees is listed below.

“The 2021 awards are a celebration of resilience, optimism, hard work and growth. As we step into a third year of a pandemic, this year’s winners remind us of the possibilities and opportunities that can exist in adversity,” said Dr. Sulochana Segera, Founder/Chairperson of Women in Management (WIM). “They also remind us of the extraordinary potential women in Sri Lanka and the Maldives are capable of, especially in challenging the status-quo for greater good. Women are often hesitant to take their spot in the limelight, but over the past decade, the Top50 Awards have created a platform helping them showcase their talents and achievements, and importantly to inspire others.”

With over 470 past award winners, the ‘Top50’ Professional and Career Women Awards aim to showcase the significant role women play as leaders, employees, entrepreneurs, and stakeholders in contributing to sustainable and inclusive economic growth in the country.

Marking IFC’s seventh consecutive year in co-hosting the event, Victor Antonypillai, Acting Country Manager for IFC Sri Lanka and Maldives said, that “To ensure a resilient recovery, the path should be gender inclusive – women should be at the heart of the path to recovery. We need to ‘build forward fairer’ for economies and societies to build back better.” Supported through the IFC-DFAT Women in Work program, this year’s Top50 Awards aims to showcase the resilient leadership Sri Lankan women have shown, amid a pandemic.

Also, speaking at the event, David Holly, Australian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka and Maldives remarked that, “Over the years, the ‘Top50’ Awards have shown the power of women in business inspiring many others in leadership and in society more generally. The 2022 Awards are a tribute to the resilience of Sri Lankan women, particularly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ‘Top 50’ Professional and Career Women Awards 2021 were powered by Dialog, along with Gold Sponsors Salota International and Singer. Silver sponsors for the awards included Lanka IOC, Unilever, Vision Care and Aitken Spence. Maliban and Sampath Bank were also sponsors of the event, and the gifting Partner for the award ceremony was New Vivya.

Speaking of the award winners, Nadija Tambiah, Head of Legal, Secretarial and Corporate Social Responsibility at John Keells Holdings and Chair of 2021 Judging Panel, said that the “quality of the women who were nominated or who applied this year was impressive. We were forced not only to look at the accomplishments of these women in their chosen vocations but also what impact they have had in the industry and what they have done for women in their organisations.”

This year’s Judging Panel—chaired by Nadija Tambiah—included Jayanthi Dharmasena, Managing Director of Hayleys Agriculture Holdings Ltd; Kishu Gomes, Group MD/CEO of Dreamron Group of Companies; Nisthar Cassim, Founding Editor and CEO of Daily FT; Rohantha Athukorala, CEO of Clootrack Sri Lanka/Maldives & Pakistan; Sandra De Zoysa, Group Chief Customer Officer at Dialog Axiata PLC; Sandya Salgado, Strategic Marketing Professional; Santosh Menon, CEO of KL.LK; Amanda Jewell, Acting Australian High Commissioner for Sri Lanka; and Sarah Twigg, Program Manager for Women in Work at IFC.

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Chrissworld engages CDS for registrar services

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Central Depositary Systems (Pvt) Ltd (CDS), a fully owned subsidiary of the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE), has strengthened its client base for the provision of registrar services with the addition of Chrissworld PLC. The CDS will provide the listed company with a variety of services such as share ledger maintenance, virtual AGM’s and all types of corporate actions. The CDS plays a role in driving innovation and offering cost effective solutions with value additions.

Speaking at the development, the CEO of the CSE, Mr. Rajeeva Bandaranaike, said, “We welcome Chrissworld PLC to the CDS portfolio. The CDS is uniquely positioned to offer value added Registrar services to listed entities in Sri Lanka, and the CDS is very confident that Chrissworld PLC will fully benefit from the services provided .”

Chairman of Chrissworld PLC, Mr. Christopher Perera stated, “We are very pleased to sign this agreement with the CDS as the registrar. The process of working with the CDS has been a rewarding experience for Chrissworld PLC, and going forward, we are confident that there will be excellent co-operation between the two companies and that the CDS will efficiently manage all our affairs. “

Chrissworld PLC was founded in 2013 and provides third-party logistics services specializing in warehousing, inventory management, distribution, and transportation. The company was listed on the Colombo Stock Exchange on May 18th, 2021, the first ever company to be listed on the Empower Board.

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