Women’s increasing vulnerability and COVID-19
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.
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 – email@example.com)
Women led LPO services firm Velox Partners enters new office space in Colombo
Velox Partners, a tech-based legal process outsourcing (LPO) firm, expanded its presence into Colombo to augment its existing law firm. Velox commenced operations in January 2020 prior to the onset of the pandemic. Today, it has expanded its services across numerous verticals Commercial law, Litigation, Conveyancing and Company Secretarial Services, with Legal Process Outsourcing (LPO) Services being the core. It is geared as a fully-fledged legal service provider servicing clients across United Kingdom, Australia, Singapore and Southeast Asia.
Velox is female-led with over 90% being women comprising versatile and experienced lawyers. Their expertise bridges multiple disciplines of law with a local and global clientele. The two powerhouses leading the firm are its founding partners Lihini Fernando and Dakshika Perera whose collective experience spans over three decades.
Velox Partners saw Covid-19 restrictions and remote working as an opportunity to position the firm as a tech-based entity and launched its LPO arm. Providing back office legal services to law firms across continents was seen as a viable business model that is both functional and lucrative. Furthermore, the partners of Velox realized the potential of positioning Sri Lanka as a LPO Hub, where the LPO sector enables foreign remittance to the island nation to rebuild its economy. This also provided an opportunity particularly as LPO services can be offered remotely, without a physical office presence.
Velox has serviced clients in over 14 jurisdictions worldwide providing solutions on the ethos, ‘Beyond Legal’. Velox believes in combining business efficiency and tech enabled processes to differentiate itself from the conventional law firms.
Lawyers at Velox are solution providers guided by industry expertise. The team comprises professionals based in Australia, the United States of America, Singapore, and Sri Lanka which enables them to draw cross country perspectives in providing services. Velox is now poised to use their multiple years of experience across continents to provide smart legal solutions.
Estonian TV crew gets a taste of Sri Lanka for the first time
Sri Lanka Tourism, under its Scandinavian market promotions hosted a Media FAM with 4 Media personnel from Kanal2 TV from Estonia. The tour started off on February 28 and ended on March 8. The purpose of hosting this tour was to receive more high-end tourist arrivals from Estonia, as well as the other Scandinavian markets including Lithuania and Latvia.
Subsequently, this tour was hosted in collaboration with the Sri Lanka embassy in Sweden which contributed to make this tour a success. The FAM Tour covered all the main tourist attractions in Sri Lanka, including wild life, Ayurveda, Boutique hotels, and also cultural attractions.
All these attractions were filmed and the destination will be promoted on air via Kanal2 TV, through the TV show ‘’ Kaugele Siit’’ (far from here). The first episode of this programme is scheduled to be telecast for 45 minutes. This travel programme has 420,000 followers as their audience. Kanal2 TV was also the official Media partner for the Winter Olympics 2018, a Sri Lanka Tourism press release said.
The release adds: ‘The visitors were quite impressed with the 8-day tour which they had, enjoying every moment of their tour. They were equally mesmerized with the warm hospitality which they received from the Sri Lankans, which they are mostly renowned for. They enjoyed the traditional Sri Lankan cuisine, and the variety of dishes which they tasted. Nevertheless, they had the opportunity of exploring every attraction of the paradise island to convey the message to their fellow Estonians, that Sri Lanka is a unique travel destination which has everything in store for the enthusiastic traveler.
‘They also had a cooking demonstration by courtesy of Siddhalepa Ayurveda Resorts & Spas Wadduwa, and also a Yoga treat at the same venue. Visiting the Turtle Hatchery at Kosgoda , the Elephant orphanage at Pinnawala, going through a safari at Eco park was also another amazing experience which they had during their stay.’
The Academy of International Business signs Memorandum of Understanding with the University of the Pacific
Academy of International Business Sri Lanka (AIB) held its second graduation at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall with over fifty graduates successfully passing out. At the recent graduation, the business academy signed its MOU with the University of the Pacific.
The signing of the MOU is a major milestone for the business academy. The courses offered are DBA, MBA, and BBA top-up programs through AIB. Prof Liam, Rector – of the University of Pacific, expressed confidence that the program delivered by AIB will be very beneficial.
The event was graced by passed graduates, teachers, and lecturers, the ceremony was hosted by the chief guest and the regional director of ABE(UK) Dr Praveen Mahendran. “The ABE(UK) is one of the long-standing professional awarding bodies from the UK and AIB is proud to be associated with ABE and approved by the awarding body.
Hard work, competency and capability are the values that produce results, through the AIB and its programs these are achievable. Every student is encouraged to show their full potential”.
The distinguished guests were the Vice President of the BNI Pioneer Chapter, Dilan Fonseka. He emphasized, the importance of students gaining experience in entrepreneurial skills and business development by enrolling at BNI. AIB is a member of BNI, which creates multiple opportunities.
About the Academy of International Business: AIB is recognized for its management programs, digital marketing, marketing, and English language programs such as IELTS, and PTE. It’s widely popular among students in search of pursuing business and management courses.The Director of AIB Sri Lanka, Chrishankar Janathanan, expressed the institute’s commitment to providing the best quality education. It’s not only a center that is simply cornered to the education sector but also has focused its efforts on recruitment services and digital agency services.
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