Skilled worker exodus seen as stalling industrial progress

By Steve A. Morrell

Hotel room inventories end 2015 would increase to a figure in excess of 8000. Additionally, some 228 hectares identified for 1023 industrial projects, particularly South of the island, and a number of Northern development projects are part of the cornerstone of current development, according to the authorities.

Minister of Investment Promotion, Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena this week at a press conference convened to give information on the government’s development plans said new industries already being set up could be completed within the next six months.

He however said a serious shortage of skilled workers could have these industries relegated to the non-starter category.

Tourist arrivals first quarter 2014 recorded about 750,000. GDP per capita was currently $ 3280. This figure would increase to approximately $ 4000 end 2015. Unemployment would reduce to some 4.5 % .

Irrespective of such development, the manpower shortage would seriously affect industrial progress. The minister hastened to say there was no need to panic.

The minister said the exodus of skilled workers continued to countries like South Korea and other industrial countries, where wages were good and worker talent was lured by these monetary benefits. He did not refer to any government plans to arrest this worker exodus.

Minister Abeywardena further said there was no need to import workers from outside the country, particularly because our man power base is sound; and the need was not urgent.

He also said displaced families in the identified industrial zones were already being re-located. Accordingly, such re-location was carried out with least trauma, although the displaced were loath to leave their ancestral lands. They have been adequately compensated.

Areas identified for industrial zones were in Hambamtota, Puttlam, Vavuniya.

The Vavuniya Industrial zone, he said, would employ approximately 99 % Tamil people.

Additionally, rather than concentrate on popular urban locations, expanding these industries to sites that would go into the hinterland was part of government plans. That too to minimize labour displacement, preventing long-distance travel from workers’ homes.

The minister cited the example of about 160 garment factories now rendered dysfunctional because of various reasons and the government’s plans to make these factories functional and vital to the economy.

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