of the biggest post-tsunami employers
By Dinushika Dissanayake
Last December’s tsunami cost the lives of many people and
ruined people’s livelihoods but it also opened the doors to
the NGO movement in Sri Lanka being one of the biggest employers
in recent times – some say recruiting as much as 20,000 in
the last few months.
the 100s of non governmental organisations that already existed,
scores of others have come on board the post-tsunami bandwagon.
According to some estimates, more than 150 new charity organizations
have begun work in Sri Lanka.
has opened up enormous employment opportunities for Sri Lankans.
Yu Hwa Li, National Director of Sri Lanka for World Vision, said
last week that following the tsunami they had recruited a large
number of new employees to deal with the increased need for relief
workers.“We had 330 people before the tsunami to handle projects
of about Rs. 15 million; we then had to recruit 450 new personnel
to handle the Rs. 100 million projects that arose after the tsunami,”
he said. Of these new personnel he said that eight to 10 percent
are expatriates, this percentage leaving a significant gap for local
employees to fill.
to Li the labour market, both skilled and unskilled, has become
extremely volatile due to the increased demand for skilled labour.
“World Vision has not scaled up its salary scales in order
to attract more labour, but the need to conduct a survey on salary
scales in the industry was highlighted in the past few months,”
he said. According to him, a project manager before the tsunami
would have been paid approximately Rs. 35,000 to Rs. 40,000; the
same role would now attract a salary of Rs. 45,000 to Rs. 50,000
at World Vision.
explained that this increase in wages is due to increased allowances
to employees who were inconvenienced by the relocation into affected
areas. “It is not a permanent salary increase, and keeping
in mind that World Vision pays less than other NGO’s, we are
paying the same salaries as before,” he said. He was unable
however to comment on the salary scales offered by other NGO’s
who have entered Sri Lanka for the first time after the tsunami
Priyanthi Fernando, Executive Director of CEPA, however said that
prices in the industry, both in the skilled and unskilled labour
markets, have increased. “I know that at grass root level
the price of labour has gone up in the tsunami stricken areas,”
she said. According to her, CEPA which is a local NGO has lost three
of their skilled personnel to higher paying jobs offered by other
NGOs after the tsunami. Jeevan Thiagarajah, Executive Director of
the Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies (CHA), confirmed this statement
and added that the salary disparities after the tsunami range from
Rs.30,000 to Rs.70,000 per job. According to him, CHA has lost two
personnel to other NGOs within the past six months following the
the creation of new employment opportunities and higher paying jobs
is a positive trend, concerns arise as to the long term economic
and social impact of the short term contract based jobs offered
by NGOs. “The downsizing process will eventually take place,”
said Thiagarajah, adding that within the next five years the labour
market will be flooded with employees who are currently working
under one or two year contracts under various NGOs.
Hwa Li of World Vision said that within the next two years they
will be releasing 50 percent of the newly recruited staff. “Our
one year contracts will be extended for a term of maximum two to
three years,” he said.
CEPA’s Fernando, adding another dimension to the concerns
raised, said that according to her sources, many persons in the
affected areas are opting for higher paying but short term jobs
with NGOs in order to obtain housing loans and rebuild their shattered
lives. “Within the next two years once the contracts are terminated,
they will have no income and will additionally be struggling to
pay off loans,” she said. A further concern is how an employee
who lived on a salary of Rs. 50,000 a month while working at an
NGO will adjust to an income of Rs. 30,000 after two to three years,
creating a potential source of social unrest and frustration among
the work force.
of World Vision admitted that when recruiting new personnel they
had not given thought to the economic and social impacts of such
recruitments. “The solution is to recruit skilled persons
who can receive valuable training as NGOs and who can move on to
better careers at the end of their contracts,” he said.