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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Youth underemployment a pressing issue, says IPS

 * Jobs for Lankan youth in South Korea
 Think tank says it was alarmed to note a majority of educated youth were willing to go to South Korea for any type of job, including manual labourGreener pastures: Over 4,000 youth from all parts of the country gathered at the Police Field Force Headquarters in Colombo earlier this week seeking to apply for jobs in South Korea. The centre was just one of 29. (Picture courtesy Institute of Policy Studies).

Sri Lanka’s youth seem to prefer working overseas as long as they had better wages and higher incomes as underemployment remains a problem in the country and despite being educated, many are willing to take up manual labour in more affluent countries.

Over 4,000 youth had queued-up outside the Police Field Force Headquarters earlier this week seeking to fill 3,500 vacancies for jobs in South Korea, and the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) conducted a snap survey which showed that unemployment and underemployment are pressing issues in Sri Lanka that would have to be addressed soon if the country hoped to become the ‘Wonder of Asia’.

The youth had thronged to the police headquarters after the government announced a bilateral foreign employment scheme with South Korea that could create employment opportunities for thousands each year.

” This centre in Colombo was one of 29 centres country-wide set up by the Ministry of Foreign Employment to distribute applications for Korean employment (particularly language tests), and attracted youth from various districts who had queued since Sunday afternoon,” the IPS said.

IPS researchers conducted a snap survey of a sample of 41 youth in the queue, to get some insight into their profile, education level, employment status, and reasons for seeking migrant work in South Korea. The respected think tank’s findings and analysis appear on page 8.

“The unemployment situation for youth in Sri Lanka is clearly a pressing issue, and needs to be addressed as an urgent priority in post-war Sri Lanka to ensure inclusive growth and prevent social discord,” the IPS concluded from the survey data.

“The majority of those seeking work in Korea were in the 25-30 and also the 20-24 age category. Despite the fact that nearly 66 percent of those seeking Korean jobs were A/L qualified, 58.5 percent stated that they are seeking ‘any type of work’ in Korea. Low income/low wages’ in Sri Lanka was the main reason cited by the youth for seeking foreign employment in South Korea.

“Unemployment levels have come down over the last decade, but they are still very high amongst youth (20 to 29 year olds), particularly the more educated. Unemployment is more of a problem outside the Western Province, particularly for the more educated. But, it is surprising that even in the Western Province, where the unemployment rates are very low, even for the more educated individuals, youth are scrambling to find employment abroad. It is also alarming that a majority of those aspiring to go to Korea are willing to go for any type of job, including for manual labour,” the IPS noted.

The think tank suggested that authorities needed to create better jobs and rethink skills development so that school leavers are better prepared for the world of work.


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