The people of the country have selected a visionary leader for their progressive future. It is high time for us to consider what has gone wrong in the past and take action to plan the country’s national development strategies to usher prosperity for the nation. Human resources planning is a premier requirement which should receive [...]

Business Times

Planning manpower on the path to prosperity


The people of the country have selected a visionary leader for their progressive future. It is high time for us to consider what has gone wrong in the past and take action to plan the country’s national development strategies to usher prosperity for the nation. Human resources planning is a premier requirement which should receive high priority among other development strategies. We can learn lessons from many countries which have gone beyond us in terms of prosperity. They have had human resources planning with high priority in their development agendas. We need to pay attention to those strategies since Sri Lanka needs a fast-track economic growth. The economic growth around 3-4 per cent we had during the last few years is not sufficient to create prosperity to the population, consisting of around 22 million. The inadequate attention that was paid to handling human resources problems and the incorrect approaches applied to tackle them was reflected in low economic growth in the recent past. During the last few years we have had many labour disputes, labour unrest, protest marches, demonstrations and strikes that had adverse effects on economic growth. Human resources planning is a vital requirement for a country which needs fast-tracked economic growth.

File picture of a garments factory worker.

Proper HR plan

In the few development plans we had in the past, the targets for human resources utilisation have been worked out but have ended with low success. A national human resources plan is required basically to estimate the demand and the supply numbers of the labour and to identify the ways and means of making the people available for different activities of the economy. A well-focussed human resources plan will provide a well-trained and well-qualified group of people to meet the demand arising from the employers.

A human resources utilisation plan basically facilitates to identify labour requirements for different sectors of the economy, design training needs for personnel, resolve unemployment problems especially for youths, plan educational systems and mostly fulfils human resources needs of the institutions. A human resources plan will help resolve poverty issues particularly providing solutions to youth unrest, thus helping to maintain law and order with peace which is a preliminary requirement for achieving high economic growth.

The availability of a group of capable people to attend to economic activities of agriculture, industries and services sectors has to be ensured in a timely manner on a well-focused plan. For instance, by way of a plan it is required to identify how many people that we should make available in a given period of time to fulfil requirements of different sectors i.e., how many engineers, accountants, architectures, teachers, lawyers, bankers, hotel and restaurant people, paramedics, computer operators, programmers, system analysts, seamen, drivers and labourers etc. Through the education system of the country, these personnel have to be made available. The numbers that we need as employees for a particular period of time have to be continuously monitored and communicated in advance to educational and training institutions to make persons available for activities. Hence, a human resources plan has a link to the country’s education system. When such a plan is in operation there may not be any excessive or idle number of labour who are passing out from the country’s education system. Our country’s current problems such as unrest among students and teachers can be avoided if the country has a broad-based human resources utilisation plan. When there is such a plan, students will have a well-predicted future for them to be ready acquiring necessary skills through training while they are at the educational institutions. One of the reasons for the present youth unrest is due to lack of confidence about their future and lack of supportive training from the schools, universities and training institutions for their lives.

Job market

Hence, the policy planners in the job market and those in the education system have to get together and prepare a broader and well-focussed manpower utilisation plan for medium and long-run perspectives. Most of the labour disputes among employees and employers can be resolved by providing a clear career path for them to work. Among other things, planners also need to consider the government’s underlying development plans for the country.

The Labour Demand Survey conducted by Census and Statistics Department in 2017 has estimated that there are half a million vacancies in the country and there are about 128,000 unfilled vacancies. The lack of job specific skills and competencies has been the main reason to this. Further there are about 420,000 unemployed. This shows that country’s education system is not capable to provide required personnel for available jobs. The courses and academic curricular do not match with the requirements of employers.

Sri Lanka has a good education system which has proven records confirming that it can provide a competent set of students who can successfully follow any programme in international education. Currently, Sri Lanka has 16 state universities, 19 private universities, 11 government and private vocational training institutions to supply manpower. Although these institutions have somewhat modern curricular for various disciplines, students are yet unhappy. It shows that our education and training systems have yet to be updated to compete with international standards. The lack of a government-supported broad- based human resources programme with a link to education system will also provide reasons for wide range of labour disputes and student unrests. Therefore the need arises to make available a government-supported manpower plan linked to the country’s education system to fulfil human resources needs of the government and private sector institutions.

Solve many issues

A well-developed manpower plan will help resolve many problems. In Sri Lanka lack of timely-found employment is one reason for educated youths to be frustrated. Graduates are encouraged to demonstrate demanding employment. This I see is partly a failure of the education system. Our university system can accommodate nearly 31,000 of advanced level passed students. They are a group of students who has undergone a very competitive process of examinations. Suitable jobs to match their qualifications cannot be found even for this limited number of graduates. Except for a few academic fields, a majority of students who pass out with general degrees cannot find suitable jobs, if the government cannot help them by way of offering management trainee programmes of the public sector even though they are overcrowded.

By way of manpower planning, solutions can be found to the problem of brain drain as well. Many students who pass out from the country’s academic institutions consider migrating to other countries for jobs. Most of the migrants don’t receive high ranking white-colour jobs in those countries. The benefit of free education and that of the country’s training are sacrificed in place of foreign jobs. The return that the country receives from advanced countries does not match with the sacrifices we make by way of offering free education and training in the country.

China is one of the countries trying hard to tackle their development issues by way of manpower planning. Along with other reforms, China’s labour market reforms have contributed immensely in achieving social and economic progress in recent decades. The reforms in education system in China have given a necessary impetus to achieve its high economic growth around 10 per cent per annum. By 2030 China expects to have 200 million graduates which is more than the entire workforce in the US.

China bloomed due to reforms in education system along with technical developments. Presently, China produces a variety of products depending on the world demand. Among the dynamic products that China produces, there are electronic and electrical products, telecommunication devises, optical devices, software products, pharmaceutical products, and a variety of chemical products.

Likewise, Sri Lanka too for its progress should be fast in technical developments. The academic areas have to be revised by giving high priority to technical, mechanical, engineering and biological areas. The universities can consider increasing their student intakes to these areas and suitable curricular revisions to meet labour demand.

The contribution from a well-developed human resources development and utilisation plan will be helpful to acquire high economic growth to usher prosperity to the nation.

(The writer is a former Assistant Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka. Currently, he is the Chairman of the Kanrich Finance Ltd).


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