Posted on June 23rd, 2020


When we were studying Demography at the university, a popular topic was Brain Drain, and we were not happy about the population policy planning at that time as the government policy did not direct and address required policy measures to control brain drain.  The major reason to displease the government policy was that competent human resources were subject to leave from the country looking for higher earnings from overseas. Later, since the 1980s the government has been encouraging to send skilled people overseas for employment as such policy has been contributed to increasing foreign exchange inflow, reduce unemployment, and empowering rural people. Many rural women left overseas for a small wage that was a large amount when converted to Sri Lanka rupees in a situation where the monetary unit of the country has been radically depreciating. Going overseas for employment has become a fashion as it becomes a way to make quick money disregarding the dignity of labour and the war and terrorist activities too in the country promoted going overseas and it has come to young people’s minds that the purpose of education is to go overseas for employment than it is using for the country where they were born.

People going overseas for employment is a common facet in all countries in the world. People in developed countries have gone overseas for employment, the purpose of leaving from the native place is a preference of individuals who prefer a different environment to gain experience, and some low-income countries encourage citizens to go overseas for employment for specific economic reasons.  Sri Lanka followed similar reasons in the past. In the beginning, many people go overseas with a strong mind comeback after a few years with a wheelbarrow of money and some people go with the family, and when the family adapts to the overseas environment they have no idea of going back to the homeland, and some people begin doing business. Many employees who have gone oversea from Sri Lanka were semi-skilled or unskilled labour who have difficulties in finding employment with sufficient wages for living, and hyperinflation created in the country after the 1978 liberal economic policy forced people to look for jobs overseas.  Many people who have gone overseas are performing unskilled and lower grade work, and some of them addicted to anti-social behaviour.        

When the world is getting hardships from the COVID pandemic it seems that Sri Lankan employees in many countries especially in the Middle East want to come back and when they come back, they become unemployed in the country. Sri Lanka needs to develop new policies to treat employees coming from overseas. Two major issues with those who are coming from overseas are first finding employment, and the second is earning in Sri Lanka isn’t adequate to satisfy the lifestyle they adapted in overseas.

The government could develop short-term and medium-term policies to solve the problem.  It can assume that 25% of exodus employees from overseas can quickly train to go overseas again if they are quality workers and qualified personnel, however, domestic workers in Middle East houses will have to compete with people from other countries. The COVID pandemic has created job losses in many countries. Last week it reported that unemployment in Australia 7.1% of the laborforce and economists predict that it will be double in the next month.  If it assesses from the 1990s economic downturn it would take more than two years to recover. 

The following policy actions would be useful.

  • Retraining people in TVET institutions for the same job area or shift into other fields. Each electorate needs two TVET institutions with ten skill training courses from Certificate 1 to Diploma level.  TVET institutions need to develop short programs and curriculum for programs. TVET programs need to structured consistent international standards ( Certificate 1, Certificate 2, Certificate 3, Certificate 4, Diploma, and National Advanced Diploma). Changes in the curriculum are essential to the modern environment and the curriculum structure in the TVET system in Sri Lanka has not been changed consistently to the modernization of skills and knowledge level.  They need skills to apply values in the work environment.  The application of values in the work environment is far behind and kids are needed to give skills to become competent employees.
  • Under the education reforms, if the government introduced Vocational Education in Secondary contexts, many of these returnees can appoint as TVET teachers in secondary schools with a one-year teacher training program. (If the government interested in such a program, I can provide the program and curriculum in English).  TVET training should offer in English with promoting languages such as Mandarin, Korean, Japanese, German, and others.
  • Interested people could be given training for initiating a small business.  Entrepreneurial skills should be promoted with broader skills in accounting, business strategies, marketing, and many other areas to initiate many businesses and each business can provide jobs for at least five persons.  This strategy would be helpful to reduce unemployment in the country.
  • The banking system needs to introduce a credit project to help these returnees with credits and other financial help.  Many people in Sri Lanka are lacking knowledge in developing projects, monitoring projects, and remedial management.

People have been working overseas need broader skills to adapt to the environment of Sri Lanka, during the past several decades, the work environment in the country has changed and the behaviour of people also changed, sometimes people come back to the country they might have difficulties to deal with people in the country who have adapted to the strange culture. I observed that Sinhala language has changed and many words added to usage and modern Sinhala usage is difficult to understand.   

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