‘SL only country in the world to have unemployed graduates’

Sri Lanka is the only country in the world where there are no job opportunities for graduates, former President of the Organization of Professional Associations (OPA), Dr Lalith Wijetunge, said yesterday.

He said multiple issues such as misguided education systems, mentality issues are the key to this problem. “If you take India, we’ve seen PhDs applying for office support jobs (peons), but back in Sri Lanka, graduates are insisting on a job that matches their qualification and that state of spirit translates into more than 100,000 unemployed graduates.”

Graduates also don’t have any professional training, and several public sector companies don’t like to hire them when they pass out. This is why the OPA proposed to the government to introduce a “part-time employment policy” which is common all over the world. “Sri Lanka doesn’t even have any guidelines or laws on this, although temporary and part-time contracts have gradually gained prominence in many labor markets.”

He said that by offering part-time jobs, school dropouts could get quick employment and also good training to move on to their next life-related job. “There are also several companies that do not want permanent jobs for certain sectors and the legalization of the ‘part-time employment policy’ can be a solution to this.”

In principle, organizations and workers can benefit from part-time work, as it will help workers find a balance between work and private life, promote entry into the labor market and increase employment when jobs at full time are not available.

OPA President Dulitha Perera said that when staff are asked to retire at 60, the country stops using their expertise and contribution to GDP. “The solution to this is to offer them a ‘Part-Time Job’.

Perera recalled that he too worked part-time as a drummer during his youth to make ends meet. It was also revealed that the unemployment rate in Sri Lanka rose to 5.70% in March 2021, from the previously reported figure of 5.20% in December 2020, which includes 100,000 unemployed graduates. The number of jobs in the economy contracted by 160,996 in the first quarter of 2020 and GCE O/L and A/L dropouts would also add to that.

“These numbers could increase over the next two to three years due to advances in technology.”

The government should take steps to reskill the unemployed, as this is key to their transition to new employment in booming sectors. “We also proposed this program to the Minister of Labor Manusha Nanayakkara who was keen to implement it. All part-time workers must be registered with the government-designated body.

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