SL fights labour shortage amid building boom
Cheap Sri Lankan labour has built skyscrapers and condos across the Gulf for decades but now contractors at home are desperate for workers as the island nation experiences an unprecedented construction boom.
The labour shortage has seen builders offer lavish incentives ranging from cash to vehicles to keep workers from heading overseas, and in some cases, illegally employ foreign tradesmen to man projects. Sri Lanka was left with a massive reconstruction task at the end of the civil war in 2009, with large parts of the north left in ruins by decades of fighting.
Annual investment in new homes, roads and ports – which has hovered at around 600 billion rupees ($4 billion) in recent years – is expected to almost triple to $11.6 billion in 2017.
But Sri Lanka needs 400,000 new workers – a two-thirds jump from existing levels – to keep up with this surge, said Nissanka Wijeratne, the head of the Chamber of Construction Industry. "We can't get that many overnight and we will have to import.
We are now facing a serious labour crisis," he said.
Private contractors are going to extreme lengths to stop the flow of tradesmen heading to the Gulf for construction jobs, offering bonuses like motorcycles and cars to labourers who choose to work on projects back home.
The government has taken a different approach and sought to put curbs on migration by raising the minimum wage requirements for workers heading overseas.
Under their proposal, Sri Lankans will be barred from going abroad for work unless they can show evidence of future earnings amounting to more than $400 per month.
"We want to discourage those who go abroad for low pay. Some of these workers can get more money if they stay back in Sri Lanka," Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake said.
But it is a risky strategy. Roughly one in ten Sri Lankans work abroad and their remittances are the number-one foreign exchange earner for the island of 21 million.
The pool of money flowing home is growing, with Sri Lankans sending $7.24 billion last year compared with $6.98 billion in 2015.
The push to recruit local workers has also suffered due to a cultural stigma surrounding blue-collar labour, meaning that Sri Lankans living in the country often choose low-paying office jobs over better remunerated opportunities in masonry, carpentry and plumbing.
"There is a social perception about construction industry labour, and that is why young people prefer public sector jobs even if they pay much less," Wijeratne said. "It is about social acceptance."
The dearth has spurred some desperate contractors to look offshore themselves – not for work but workers. The government estimates roughly 200,000 foreigners are employed illegally in the construction sector.
"Foreigners are illegally employed like this because we have a shortage of workers," Urban Development Minister Champika Ranawaka said recently.
"I am proposing that the government come up with a policy on foreign workers to regularize this sector."
One company, which declined to be identified, said it was employing foreign workers illegally but noted that many others were doing the same. (AFP)
- City Coroner complains to Fort Magistrate Call to probe death of Bellanwila Thera Monk was moved from CSGTH against medical advice
- Will Transitional Justice wither? Int’l community in quandary over LG polls results
- Govt now trying to postpone PC polls
- President has not consulted me yet – AG
- Govt brought in 19A to block Rajapaksas We also can change 19A – Basil
- November 2012 Welikada Prison Massacre Second eyewitness ready to come forward
- President pressed to find suitable PM Political crisis continues
- South China Sea Unmanned vessels and future operations
- Malaysia’s 2018 General Election Alternative Scenarios?
- Back to the chessboard?
- Buddhika goes to CIABOC Alleges Rs 2 B fraud in Army food tender
- Sleeping man run over by container
- SLPP felicitates winners
- Money laundering case Namal allowed foreign travel
- Kuwait MP says expats are ‘opportunistic bacteria’ Al-Hashim blames traffic congestion and pollution on foreigners
- SL’s 70th Independence celebrated in S Korea
- Prez summons Ministry Secys All official duties to continue
- Rosy writes to Mahinda Deshapriya Wants 25% female quota implemented urgently
- Aloysius and Palisena denied bail Notice issued to Mahendran to appear before CID by 8th March
- Women NGOs write to EC Chair We expected ‘confusion’ over 25% rep Goonasekera
- One killed in shooting Assailant assaulted to death
- Bid to apprehend Weeratunga Marapana to leave for UAE Fugitive ex-envoy prevented from leaving
- Appointment of new PM Prez to consult AG and senior PCs
- Govt to continue as per Constitution – Ranil
- Inter-Korean collaboration Money, lies, and pleasure squads
- Strategic plans worked well – Hathurusinghe
- Jayamanna scores double ton
- Royal win Frank Gunasekara Shield
- Nalanda run out of time
- 16 teams qualify to pre quarters
- Pre-quarter finalists found
- Sirimavo Bandaranaike, Piliyandala Central emerge champions
- CR in dashing form crush CH
- Election commission rejects votes of athletes’ commission
- So easy for Kandy SC
- Tamim returns to boost hosts
- Royal win Inaugural ‘Alles-Gunasekara’ Encounter
- Didn’t take Bangladesh for granted - Gunathilaka
- Kandy SC should have it easy
- Jayamanna scores unbeaten ton
- Navy SC fight hard to win
- Bhanuka and Lahiru in unbroken stand of 251
- Lionel, Nilani eye title at Cross Country
- Army SC can topple Havies
- New Kids on Big Match stage
- Sri Lanka has already missed ‘three buses’ in digitalization: Dialog CEO
- CBSL to raise Rs 30B to pay maturing debt
- ADB lends $ 75M to strengthen Sri Lanka SMEs
- Tea Board Chairman submits resignation
- Singapore FTA no game changer: Verite
- Solid Waste Management - global issue
- NDB partners with United Motors for vehicle leasing
- HNB recognized at IFM Awards 2017 for microfinance innovation
- zMessenger nominated at Festival of Media APAC Awards 2018
- Sunquick consumers drink and win again
- Grabbing a bigger slice of the FDI pie
- ABANS LAUNCHES BEATS HEADPHONES IN SL
- SLT opens contact centre in Bandarawela
- William Angliss Institute graduates felicitated
- ‘If Chrysotile fibre is harmful, Government must prove it’ Arecanut is also in WHO banned list, but still legal in SL: Fibre Cement Product Manufacturers’ Association
- Housing a priority in Govt’s development effort
- Singer posts over Rs 1B sales of Huawei smartphones monthly
- Nippon Paint holds AYDA 2017 for young designers
- Mobitel named fastest mobile network in Sri Lanka by Ookla
- TEA PRICES, ONLY ONE METRIC OF RPC SUCCESSes
- INTERPOL REFUSES TO DELIVER SUMMONS TO MAHENDRAN ARREST WARRANT TO BE SOUGHT AFTER MARCH 8 IF…
- REVISITING SRI LANKA’S FOREIGN POLICY
- Howlers that wreck language
- Pursuing Peace The UN’s lack of accountability
- Oxfam Scandal Funding fears may drive charities to hide offences
- Prof Bellanwila Wimalarathana Thera’s demise Call for probe as questions remain in limbo
- Colombo’s construction frenzy Lack of policies and awareness a major issue
- I take full responsibility for the results delay Deshapriya speaks out
- Concretes & Abstracts Visionary sans apostles
- UNP’s future at stake Defeat at the recent LG polls renews calls for reform
- Basil says…Await the return of ‘Spiritual Leader’ MR
- Rajapaksas’ Presidential hopeful is Gota
- Sins of the past Govt cannot be forgotten- Anura Kumara
- Law and order is quite weak
- I will continue Gota’s legacy - Milinda Rajapaksha
- Accomplice to the crime Our own indifference
- UK flower farm suspected of enslaving migrants
- Costly Renovation
- REV. PROF BELLANWILA WIMALARATANA THERA
- Why Masses Brought Victory to Past President
- White Sapphire absorbs the power of Venus
- Partial eclipse that occurred on Feb 16
- Effects of Sun in Aquarius
- Some recent impressions
- Bandula Nanayakkarawasam: From Galle to the world
- Pauline Kael: The critic wore cowboy boots
- Pauline Kael: The critic wore cow boy boots
- “Hail, Caesar!” Silliness as a virtue
- Notes on history: The thinkers and the doers
- Reflections on a nation of non-readers
- The Disaster Artist: The (un)making of a movie
- Kite Surfing Lanka Kalpitiya An experience of a lifetime
- Ella and mini Adam’s Peak
- A cave of history -Ravana Cave
- Never say never to anything!
- What’s In My Bag I want to carry my dog Ricky Ruchira
- Indian Elegance Raaya Clothing & Accessories
- Election promises that took people for a ride
- 7 killed in Florida school shooting by former student: sheriff
- Man with moustache who went to Rajarata a thousand times in a ramshackle Jeep