Sri Lanka’s labour laws and policies will be amended to enhance female labour force participation in the economy, according to National Policies and Economic Affairs Deputy Minister Dr. Harsha de Silva.
“These are some of the measures that we are taking; amending labour laws to enable flexible and part-time working hours. We’re increasing access to affordable daycare centres, and we’re improving public transport so travel becomes easier and safer, and we’re making access to finance easier for women so they can become entrepreneurs,” he said speaking at the Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka National Conference 2017 last week.
He noted that the government is striving to reverse the historical trend of women not participating in the productive sectors of the economy. According to the Department of Census and Statistics, in the second quarter of 2017, just 35.9 percent of women participated in the labour force.
Dr. de Silva said that the private sector too can help in increasing female labour force participation by helping the government with these initiatives.
Nearly 60 percent of Sri Lankan university graduates are women, but most women don’t work due to the lack of facilities and infrastructure to take care of their families while working. However, as the education level of women increases, the labour force participation increases up to levels similar to those of men.
Women contribute most towards Sri Lanka’s foreign exchange earnings despite the low level of participation, with the two largest merchandise export industries of apparel and tea, as well as the largest foreign exchange earner—remittances—depending on women.
Central Bank Governor Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy recently said while it is hard to generalize, Sri Lankan women are well regarded and have a better attitude when working, while Sri Lankan men may be suffering from poor attitudes.
However, labour laws preclude women from working in some employment areas.