An economy is driven by both the public and private sectors, duties of which are clearly defined in economics, in order that economic growth can be further accelerated. The public sector sets the ground, so that the private sector can play efficiently and score.
Hence, the private sector can be considered to be the lifeblood of an economy. The labour, one of the production factors, should be trained to meet the private sector requirements, if the economy needs to be on the right track.
The labour demand survey that was recently conducted by the Census and Statistics Department revealed that there are about five million people engaged in the private sector and there are around 500,000 vacancies in various job categories related to the private sector in Sri Lanka. It was the first time when such a survey was conducted to meet the data requirements for policymaking with regard to the private sector.
Whenever a business cannot recruit talented workers, that particular business cannot be expanded to supply for the growing demand. No matter how sophisticated the equipment the businesses use, the strength behind them is a talented workforce.
The survey findings indicate that in the private sector, the highest demand is in the ‘sewing machine operators’ job category. This cannot be taken lightly at a time when the nation has regained GSP Plus, whereby the garment exporters are able to increase the volume of exports.
Furthermore, the labour shortage has been one of the main hindrances for the apparel industry in the country, preventing the opportunity to fully harness GSP Plus.
It is up to the private sector in Sri Lanka to take the economy forward, being backed and facilitated by the public sector
Once the demand and supply don’t match with each other, the labour market becomes imbalanced, opening a can of worms where there are unfilled vacancies as well as unemployed graduates seeking employments. This is of course a result of lack of coordination between industrialists and education authorities responsible for policymaking.
Going beyond the high literacy rate, the nation needs to get rid of labour market imbalance, so that youth labour is not wasted. The education system, which was designed by the British imperialists to produce clerks capable of running the then plantation economy, has to be re-questioned concerning its validity in this globalized world. The businesses, which produce goods and services for the world market, cannot be run by that kind of workers.
In order to bridge the gap between demand and supply in the labour market, graduates and other professionals produced for the labour market need to be changed. That’s why it has been emphasized that unemployment can never be minimized without reforms in the education system.
It is true that the job categories, which have the highest number of vacancies, are mainly blue-collar jobs which low recognition is attached to in the society. That is the main reason as to why the youth don’t like to get recruited. The necessity is that there should be proper coordination between human resource producing factories like universities, vocational training colleges, other professional bodies and product manufacturing factories. Surveys like this can be considered a need of the hour, as it helps to decide where we are as a country, making the coordination stronger.
The education system, which was designed by the British imperialists to produce clerks capable of running the then plantation economy, has to be re-questioned concerning its validity in this globalized world
It has to be stated here that actions speak louder than words. Therefore, one step forward will resolve many issues or at least mitigate a few of them. The nation seems to have missed professional education. Vocational training colleges should be further expanded and made popular among the youth, in order that the school dropouts will be directly picked by them. Idle time can be minimized by this kind of initiatives.
Big corporations should come forward to train people and then recruit as employees. Private hospitals can train people as nurses without waiting for the government to do so.
It is up to the private sector in Sri Lanka to take the economy forward, being backed and facilitated by the public sector. Hence, the private sector must be empowered with a talented workforce, which could be an outcome of radical reforms in education through strong coordination.
(Amila Muthukutti is an economist)
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