Business Times

Largest gap between sexes in Lankan labour force participation

Sri Lanka recorded the 20th largest gap in the world labour force participation between the sexes, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO). “The difference in participation rates between the sexes is stark – participation rate for men stood at 76.1 % in 2008 whilst in the same year women’s participation recorded slightly less than half of male participation – at 37.8 %,” the ILO said in a statement to mark World Poverty Day which falls today.

The ILO said female youth unemployment here stood at 24.6 % against male youth unemployment which is 18.6%. It said the highest unemployment rate was reported from those who had reached G.C.E. (A/L) and beyond and it also showed women again disproportionately represented in this highly educated unemployed cohort as well.

Youth unemployment accounts for more than half of the total unemployment, in which the largest share of the total unemployed is within the age group of 20-24 year olds. “This means that we are losing the potential and energies of a group of young people to contribute to the development process. This also means the building up of a group of idle, restless and disillusioned youth who on the other hand contribute to the increasing trend of dependency in the country,” the statement said adding that analysts have attributed much of these phenomena to either skills mismatch – where education provided, however high, is not geared to the needs of the labour market or where youth though educated, lack the skills and experience demanded by the employer.

Sri Lanka’s population trends indicate that the pattern of an expanding youth cohort will soon reverse to reflect a growing ageing population. In 2008 the population cohort over 75 years was 436,000 (almost equal to the number of unemployed as of today) and more than half of them were women. Given that more than twice as many women than men are unemployed, given the present trend that women outlive men by an average of eight years, there are strong indications of feminizations of the ageing poor with a resultant increase in dependency.

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