Thousands of Lankans losing foreign jobs

By Nadia Fazlulhaq

More than 30,000 Sri Lankans employed in the construction sector in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and South Korea are at risk of being laid-off owing to the global recession, a senior Minister warned yesterday.

Foreign Employment Minister Keheliya Rambukwella told The Sunday Times yesterday upto 30,000 Sri Lankans employed in the construction sector in the UAE would be affected directly and could end up losing their jobs as the construction industry in that country had been drastically scaled down owing to the global financial crisis.

He said a majority of the 18,000 Sri Lankans employed in South Korea might also have their work contracts suspended or cancelled as that country had decided to put on hold recruitment from 15 countries including Sri Lanka.

“A highly reputed international financial institution in South Korea had recently terminated the jobs of some 4000 white collar employees including many Sri Lankans though the exact number was not known. This shows that not only labour staff but even those in higher posts might lose their jobs,” the minister said.

Foreign Employment Bureau chairman Kingsley Ranawaka said the construction industry in the UAE had suffered a body blow and thousands of Sri Lankans might lose their jobs.

He pointed out that of the 238,000 Sri Lankans working in the UAE, 102,000 were men with most of them working in the construction industry. He said it was not only labour staff who would be hit but also quantity surveyors, engineers, architects and other professionals.

Mr. Ranawaka said many construction projects were at a standstill and that people were unable to get jobs in the UAE and he feared the situation might get worse.

He said other West Asian countries also were affected, especially some construction projects in Qatar.
Suraj Dandeniya, Former president of the Association of Licensed Foreign Employment Agencies (ALFEA), said the demand for construction sector workers in the UAE and other Gulf countries had drastically dropped and most of the job agencies here would also be affected.

S. Rajah, an official of Professional Manpower Recruiting Services Ltd, said that UAE employers and contractors had informed Sri Lanka of a 30 percent reduction in job opportunities and visas were not issued for jobs in some sectors.

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