In a bid to help address an emerging social problem in Sri Lanka, Expolanka’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) arm initiated a microfinance project in collaboration with HelpAge Sri Lanka (HASL) to fund senior citizens to embark on entrepreneurship projects of their own.
In order to establish a sustainable eco-system of entrepreneurship by senior citizens, the project aims to conduct a fully-fledged programme that includes forming senior citizen committees (SCCs), training each SCC on starting self-employment activities, accounting, advocacy, lobbying as well as training the committees to provide care for the more vulnerable amongst them.
Commenting on the project, Head of Marketing, Corporate Communications and CSR Paddy Weerasekera said, “Sri Lanka is one of the countries in Asia that has the fastest ageing population. This increasing proportion of senior citizens will make significant economic and social changes in the country. If no proactive action is taken to cope with such changes, there will be unprecedented results leading to a significant destruction of the social fabric that has been maintained. As a group with an entrepreneurial beginning, Expolanka has always supported entrepreneurship in the country. In the same spirit, we decided to lend a hand in initiating a sustainable project to address this issue.”
According to social and economic predictions, the Sri Lankan labour force will continue to grow for another two decades and it will shrink thereafter for a foreseeable future. Population ageing will also significantly change the age composition of the labour force, with the share of workers younger than 30 years significantly shrinking and the share of workers older than 50 years strongly increasing. If senior citizens are not contributing to the national economy, the growth of gross domestic product (GDP) will slow down.
Protection of Rights of Elders Act No. 09 of 2000 provides a provision not to discriminate senior citizens purely by their age, when providing any service, including finances. However, senior citizens from low-income families have difficulty obtaining starting capital to fund their small-scale businesses.
Speaking about the initiative, HASL Executive Director Samantha Liyanawaduge said, “There are large numbers of potential senior entrepreneurs who can still run a self-employment in a sustainable manner but currently inactive due to difficulties in accessing for required capital. It is the right time that Expolanka has decided to embark on a microfinance project in collaboration with us to provide the necessary capital to start on livelihood activities for senior citizens. The income generated by senior citizens will not only make them less dependent on their family members but will also help their families, particularly the lives of their grandchildren.”
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