Financial Times

Unemployment on increasing trend in Sri Lanka

By Dilshani Samaraweera

The latest data from the Department of Census and Statistics indicate that Sri Lanka’s declining unemployment trend has reversed and unemployment is rising. The rate of unemployment (excluding the Northern Province) went up to 6.2% in the second quarter of this year from 5.5% in the first quarter of this year.

This puts the official number of unemployed persons at 496,000 by the second quarter of this year. “In the long term, from 2004 to 2008, a declining trend can be noticed in unemployment. But from this year, an increasing trend seems to have started,” said a Director at the Department of Census and Statistics, G. Y. L. Fernando.

The rise in unemployment is attributed to a reduction of jobs in the industrial sector. While employment in the services sector has stagnated the agricultural sector has generated more jobs to absorb much of the fallout from industry.

“The unemployment rate would be higher if not for the agricultural sector generating more jobs. The agricultural sector employment has grown to account for 32% of total employment from about 30% before 2008. At this point 26% of total employment is in the industrial sector and 42% is in the services sector. So employment in the industrial sector has contracted a bit, while services have retained more or less the same number of jobs,” said Mr Fernando.

However, despite job losses, the overall industrial sector grew by 3.0% and the services sector grew by 1.1 % in the second quarter of 2009 compared to the same period last year. The agriculture sector grew by 4.4 %. The GDP grew at 2.1% in the second quarter compared to the second quarter last year. With global recovery and mega development projects, says the Department of Census and Statistics, a better economic performance can be expected for the second half of 2009 and in 2010.

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