Unemployment in Sri Lanka

What is the unemployment rate in Sri Lanka? Is there a law which directs the State to provide unemployment benefits?What is the government’s commitment under the Samurdhi programme? Get all details on Unemployment in Sri Lanka.

What is the current unemployment rate in Sri Lanka?

· According to the Department of Census and Statistics, both the first and second quarters of 2012, recorded the Unemployment Rate at 3.90 percent.

·The number of unemployed persons is estimated at 323,735 during the second quarter of 2012.

·Though the unemployment rate averaged 6.1 percent from 1996 until 2012, it reached an all time high of 11.3 percent in December 1996 and a record low of 3.9 percent in September of 2011 (which has remained unchanged).

· The unemployment rate is measured against the number of people actively searching for jobs as a percentage of the labour force.

What percentage of the population is considered ‘poor’?

According to the government, approximately 15.2 percent of the population is considered poor.

Is there a law which directs the State to provide unemployment benefits?

· No there is no law per se which addresses all the unemployed in Sri Lanka. However, by enacting the Janasaviya Act (No. 4 of 1989) and the Samurdhi Authority of Sri Lanka Act (No. 30 of 1995), the government is engaged in an island wide programme of poverty alleviation.

·Unlike in many western countries which have employment benefit schemes that become operational the moment people lose their jobs, Sri Lanka has provided a safety net for low income households to progress out of poverty through its poverty alleviation programmes.

What is the poverty alleviation programme that is operational in Sri Lanka?

·In 1991 the government of Sri Lanka initiated the Janasaviya Poverty Alleviation Programme focusing on the poor and unemployed. Under the Janasaviya programme poor families received Rs. 2,500/- a month, over a period of two years, and of this sum each month Rs. 1,458/- was allocated for consumption, while the balance Rs. 1,042/- was invested on behalf of the recipient. The intention was that with the grant people would be encouraged to start a small enterprise or create other means of self-employment.

· With the change of regime in 1994, the government launched the Samurdhi Poverty Alleviation Programme. This is an extensive programme which addresses issues such as development of rural infrastructure facilities, improving health and nutritional conditions among rural community and creating livelihood opportunities.

What is the government’s commitment under the Samurdhi programme?

· Though approximately 15.2 percent of the population is considered poor, around 45 percent of these families are covered under the safety net programmes funded by the government through income transfers (food and income subsidy), nutrition packages for pregnant and lactating mothers and milk feeding subsidies for children aged between two and five years.

· The objective of the Samurdhi programme is not only to raise the economic standards of individuals and alleviate poverty but also to facilitate the strengthening of society.

· Samurdhi recipients are also encouraged to develop the practice of savings.

· The Samurdhi Development Bank assists beneficiaries in cultivating and sustaining the saving habit, whilst disbursing micro loans to Samurdhi members for enterprise development.

·  Between four to five percent of the National Budget is said to be allocated annually to provide safety net assistance to the poor.

What benefits does the Samurdhi programme provide to the poor of Sri Lanka?

According to the size of the family, Samurdhi beneficiaries receive food stamps to purchase food items and kerosene oil, etc., in addition to which they receive special grants for life cycle events as well as for hospitalization and for their children’s education.

· The amount of assistance that should be provided to a family is based on whether they are poor or very poor families.

· The Food Stamp Scheme aims to strengthen the nutritional standards of feeding mothers of poor families.

· Under the Kerosene Assistance Scheme, Samurdhi recipient families living in areas that lack electricity are given Rs. 100/- each month to purchase kerosene oil.

·The Dry Food Ration Scheme provides dry food ration cards of differing financial values.

· Under the Samurdhi Society Insurance Scheme, families are provided financial assistance at times of death, birth, marriage, hospitalization in the family and for education of children.

· The Infrastructure Development programme aims to develop the infrastructure and economic development of villages with the participation of the Samurdhi recipients in the respective areas.

· For the economic development of villages, the Samurdhi Authority implements Economic Development programmes together with the participation of Samurdhi recipients in order to develop agriculture, animal husbandry, marketing and industrial projects.

·Under the Animal Husbandry and Fishery Development Projects, special attention is paid to the development of animal husbandry and fisheries.

·Social Upliftment Programmes facilitate anti-smoking, anti-alcohol, anti-drugs and anti-gambling programmes in order to improve the social fabric of the country.

· Samurdhi Recipient Housing Projects cater to the most deserving homeless Samurdhi recipients in a Samurdhi Division in order to construct or renovate their houses.

·Marketing Programmes help transform Samurdhi recipient families into new entrepreneurs as a means of alleviating poverty.

What is the mandate of the Samurdhi Bank?

·The original mandate of the Samurdhi Bank was to create a process that would receive the financial deposits of Samurdhi recipients and assist them to then obtain loans on easy terms.

· Presently there are over 1,000 Samurdhi Bank branches throughout the country and arrangements are underway to expand this network.

· The Samurdhi Bank makes available easy term loans for Samurdhi recipients to set up small scale industrial units, purchase farm animals, purchase fishing gear and boats, for agricultural work and production activities in addition to skills development.

· Although originally the Samurdhi Bank catered only to Samurdhi recipients, its facilities are now available to others as well.

How are Samurdhi beneficiaries selected?

· There are 14,000 Samurdhi Development Officers islandwide to identify poor and very poor families and register them as Samurdhi recipients.

· Families lacking sufficient income or resources to meet their daily requirements can register with these officers and become entitled to Samurdhi benefits.

Each Grama Niladhari Division (village level) has a Samurdhi Development Officer serving in that respective area.