Govt. mulls removing barriers to allow Lankan firms hire foreign labour

13 October 2017 09:27 am - 31     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


The Sri Lankan government will look to streamline the regulatory process which has so far handicapped the ability of local companies to hire foreign labour by providing greater powers to the Immigration and Emigration Controller, according to Finance State Minister Eran Wickramaratne.

“Two weeks ago, I had a discussion with the Controller of Immigration and Emigration, and I told him that he will be soon getting the power to make that decision. Yesterday, I followed it up, and it might require Cabinet approval,” Wickramaratne told a forum in Colombo, yesterday.

He said that in the past, requests companies made to the Immigration and Emigration Department had to be forwarded to the relevant line ministries, which would take several months to decide whether to allow or deny the request, by which time, firms may have lost the opportunity which required foreign expertise.

“The position that came from the industry was very simple. Annually they will decide the skill sets they need, and give him (the Immigration and Emigration Controller) the list, and let him make a decision on the spot. Then review the list from time to time depending on the needs of the economy,” Wickramaratne told the Economic Freedom Summit organized by the free-market think
tank, Advocata.

The Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), in its recently released ‘State of the Economy 2017’, recommends the establishment of a competent macro-level authority which could capture foreign credential evaluation beyond individual professional bodies impartially.

This appears to be similar to the process set up in several advanced countries such as Australia and
New Zealand.

The IPS noted that this would allow Sri Lankan employers to evaluate from a pool of equally qualified talent from both local and foreign labour markets.

Previous attempts to liberalize Sri Lankan labour markets by loosening regulations for foreign labour, or enabling the movement of natural persons through trade agreements, have been successfully defeated by some professional bodies and fraternities, such as doctors. “If your industries think they want lawyers (and) doctors, go get them, even from overseas. The question is not a question for government. It’s coming from the professions itself. The professions sometimes for good reason, and sometimes only for protectionism, are basically safeguarding their positions,” Wickramaratne said.

While noting that the government will not lay down policies which will create such vacuums in labour markets, he said the government accepts the arguments of some professionals on the need to maintain both global and local standards when accepting labour from the global markets.

Ceylon Chamber of Commerce Chief Economist Anushka Wijesingha noted that the professional associations, which had opposed opening markets under Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with India by saying that they need to get the house in order locally, are making the same argument 10 years later against the Economic and Technology Corporative
Agreement (ETCA).

“So between then and last year, what were these professional associations doing?” he questioned. Former Central Bank Deputy Governor W. A. Wijewardena earlier this week said that approximately 8,000-10,000 visas are provided by the Immigration and Emigration Department for migrant
workers, annually.

Meanwhile, there are currently around 200,000 illegal foreign workers in Sri Lanka, working mainly in lower-level positions in the construction and agriculture sectors by taking advantage of the informal structure of the Sri Lankan economy. These two sectors, along with tourism, ship building, apparel and plantation sectors have been requesting from the government the addition of foreign labour to fill gaps in the market. (Chandeepa Wettasinghe)

  Comments - 31

  • Snowy Friday, 13 October 2017 10:53 AM

    This is great news for the industry. Sri Lanka labour is unproductive That is lazy and high pay. I was at a meeting for perfuming a demonstration to a local operator working with a foreign company. The foreign engineerts worked hard included in the funder CEO. The manager of the local agent was seated and looking at what was going one. He either did not know the subject or thought it was below his dignity to connect a few cables and help meet the deadlines. This is Sri Lanka labour.

    also Friday, 13 October 2017 11:56 AM

    bring Foreign PM also.

    concerned Friday, 13 October 2017 11:08 AM

    another way to get indians to sri lanka shame on this gov

    alex Friday, 13 October 2017 11:30 AM

    why you have no problems withthe Chinese workers in SL?

    suresh Friday, 13 October 2017 11:31 AM

    why you are worried that you guys will have to now start working

    ETCA Friday, 13 October 2017 11:46 AM

    A step forward to sign ETCA

    ceylon Friday, 13 October 2017 11:08 AM

    remove all protectionist rules.allow people the freedom to choosebetter products from gfree competition.otherwise customers get garbage products and servicess. via DM Android App

    fareed Friday, 13 October 2017 11:18 AM

    Excellent idea and there are many more things government need to do to bring the investors into the country. Government needs to reevaluate every law that prevents the development of the country. Country needs people skillful people to build it.

    ceylon Friday, 13 October 2017 11:20 AM

    two million lankans working in other countries.why other countries people not allowed to work here .people work illegaly mean high demand for employees. via DM Android App

    Sarath Friday, 13 October 2017 11:26 AM

    Should get down foreign doctors as No.1 priority and stop GMOA holding the poor patients for ransom.

    Nalin Friday, 13 October 2017 11:26 AM

    This inferior attitude and low self esteem are two reasons why this country is yet a "banana republic." Just look at some of the westerners who earn huge monthly salaries and other perks doing jobs for which there are plenty of locally qualified and capable people. Ex: Hotel GM's. These westerners could never have a lifestyle even close to what they enjoy here in their own countries.

    Lord Wolfstein Friday, 13 October 2017 01:42 PM

    Big hotels with Sri Lankan GMs would be quickly bankrupt

    John Friday, 13 October 2017 07:35 PM

    They bring in foreigners because they are cheaper when you consider the mismanagement and corruption in SL hotel chains.Not mentioning any names (CG).

    tilak Friday, 13 October 2017 11:31 AM over due

    ceylon Friday, 13 October 2017 11:38 AM

    sri lankapearl of indian ocean.paradise of lazy.paradise of corrupts.paradise of thugery.paradise of kuli kingswant only lazy easy jobs. via DM Android App

    Hora Friday, 13 October 2017 12:18 PM

    This is nothing new. We have already imported CB governer and Litro chairman.

    lkboy Friday, 13 October 2017 02:48 PM

    We just need to import politicians as well!

    deshapremiya Friday, 13 October 2017 12:21 PM

    First bring foreign member of parliamentarians who work hard to develop the country.

    Dee Friday, 13 October 2017 12:51 PM

    Best news so far. Can't even find a sales guy or cleric proper these days.

    Huna Friday, 13 October 2017 01:10 PM

    That will the final nail of the coffin for this government

    sach Friday, 13 October 2017 03:05 PM

    This is ETCA, step by step. SL already imports labour when it is needed. Therefore no more need to go to agreements. Wonder how SL will look like by the time RW retires.

    adamsapple Friday, 13 October 2017 03:22 PM

    This kind of law is suitable for developed countries.. For a country like Sri Lanka, where there is job shortage.. this is rubbish.. And we guess PM 1 Million job opportunity will be for Foreigners...

    Nana Friday, 13 October 2017 03:59 PM

    Crazy, the power should goto a committee conprising all stake holders who meet weekly and decide on such Applications. By giving authority to a single official you are providing opportunity for corruption. Immigration dept (At Airport) is already corrupted.

    Rujhan Friday, 13 October 2017 04:11 PM

    This will create unemployment among SriLankan professional forcing them to leave the country further due to cheap labour of India

    ashan Friday, 13 October 2017 05:26 PM


    Ajith Friday, 13 October 2017 06:05 PM

    Bring down the Indian train drivers and keep them as backup.

    Senewi Friday, 13 October 2017 06:05 PM

    The government is dancing to the tune of WTO

    TONY Friday, 13 October 2017 06:57 PM


    John Friday, 13 October 2017 07:36 PM

    Ease the law on bringing in foreigners?How will the various ministries collect bribes then?

    Mewan Friday, 13 October 2017 09:45 PM

    With the current unemployment rate I really doubt that we have a labor shortage. It is a matter of training the currently unemployed to the right purpose. Bringing in foreign labor is going to create a lot more unnecessary problems in the long run.

    Sambo Saturday, 14 October 2017 12:56 PM

    The major labor force we have now is trishaw drivers. No government wants to address this matter. This country is facing a huge labor crisis. The majority in this country are so lazy but the PM talks of making Sri Lanka this and that of Asia. He is probably dreaming.

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