Young men and women are invaluable assets that no country can afford to waste. They bring energy, talent and creativity to the work together with new skills and the motivation that enable companies to grow, innovate and prosper.Meeting the youth reluctance to work in plantations and related challenges require determined and concerted action plan over time. A joint effort by all stake holders is required to overcome this problem.
Plantation Sector is one of the major economic avenues of the country in the last two centuries, but due to certain sociopolitical reasons and discriminatory policies of the successive governments. This sector has been marginalized from the main stream of the country. Total permanent or registered work force in the sector is about 230,000, in which women accounts more than 50 percent and they contribute to main earnings of the country.
Since independence, the plantation community has been encountering discriminations on the basis of occupation, wage, ethnicity, language, education, economy, politics and human rights.
Such historical mistakes currently, have been negatively afflicted the sustainability of Plantation industry in Sri Lanka , mainly by lack of human resources, continual abandonment , wage issues, quality of life of workers and poor maintenance of the plantations.
Lack of human resource and youth unemployment have become a key challenge to the sector as most of the activities are carried out manually and the management model is much regimented when compared to other sectors as a result t here is a growing disliking amongst the younger generation to work in the plantations and the available workers are not fully fit enough to perform their duties, due to reasons such as alcoholism and indebtedness. On the contrary, youth in the plantation who gained certain degree of education are unwilling and reluctant to work in the plantations owing to non reputation and prestige of the job. This has created the problem of unemployment in the sector.
Sociol economic problems
The sociol economic problems in the plantations have a direct impact on the youth unemployment in the sector.The plantation sector in Sri Lanka is facing challenges for its existence due to various problems. Sociol economic problems are a key challenge to the sector. Due to the Sociol economic problem there is a growing dislike among the younger generation to work in the plantations and the available workers are not 100 percent fit enough to perform their duties. Failure to address the socio economic problems in the plantation sector will cause a major problem to the industry and the country as whole.
Today’s Socio economic problem in the plantation sector is an end result of “Captive Labour” policy prevailed in the industry over the years.
Even though there are many opportunities in the plantation, the youth are reluctant to work in the plantation due to the fact that even though plantation community posses many capabilities the people outside the plantations do not socially recognise them as people with capabilities, instead they look at the plantation community who, could undertake any work where rest of the communities are not willing to undertake and they do not care for the rights of plantation workers.
A long history of isolation of plantation communities has contributed to inadequate networks and mobility beyond the estates. Further they have faced many other problems for their mobility and security, such as non availability of NIC, this result due to non availability of documents such as Birth Certificates, Citizenship, Marriage certificate of the parents etc. As a result of non availability of the NIC the plantation community face many problems and their mobility is restricted to a grater extent and they are unable to find employment out side the plantation, even if they find employment opportunities they have to leave the employment due to security reasons.
The document on poverty assessment in Sri Lanka has identified during its survey that the ownership of NIC is particularly low among the youth ( 16 – 19 years) which is probably related to the degree of isolation of household and estates, and , in turn their increase vulnerability to poverty.
Dependent life style
Due to communication barriers and the plantation management model, they have developed a dependency syndrome during generations, as the plantation provide all the facilities from their birth to death the treatment given to elderly, inability to enjoy their private life, poor working conditions, lack of leisure time allocation, hopelessness related to life pattern in general and poor life skills.
When they observe such problems, there is a tendency to agitate amongst the younger generation. Such experiences too act as push factors for outer migration and not to work in the plantations.
Lack of quality education
Non availability of proper education institutions within and outside the plantations is another problem faced by the plantation youth. The schools within the plantations lack basic facilities and other infrastructure facilities. Since most of the plantations are situated away from the urban areas and lack of transport facilities affect the mobility of the teachers to be present in time for duties. The poor value given for education by the parents do not provide suitable environment at home front for the children to attend to their after school work. The distance to the urban school does not permit most of the plantation youth to attend to secondary level education due to economic reasons. As a result the plantation youth do not get an opportunity to complete their schooling and they are not qualified to find a suitable employment out side the plantations. However when the children complete schooling up to G.C.E ordinary level examination the parent feel that they are qualified enough to find employment out side the plantation and keep them at home.
This is a burden on the family as the parents have to look after the youth who could have been economically active in the labour force are idling at home. Even when the plantation residents are able to find work outside the plantations or migrate to urban areas, the opportunities are limited due to lower education attainments.
On trend in employment and diversification data,there is consistent higher poverty, and a fall in the average number of economic earners in the Estate household. This may reflect a growing dislike for estate work by youth. The qualitative survey found the youth avoid estate work in favour of remaining unemployed until the right opportunity outside the Estate come their way. It shows the contribution of a worker per family at 2.3 has come down to 1.7 today.
Apart from the above push factors, from the sector, there are many pull factors which result outer migration of the workers such as getting exposed to new environment, meeting new clients, due recognition at smallholders or different work environment, immediate payment and loan facilities etc.
The matters discussed above lead to the poverty. In fact as per the Sri Lank Poverty assessment Report has shown much concern about higher poverty levels when compared to urban and rural sectors. The picture also shows a negative impact about the plantation community as a result the outer world look at them with a different eye. Such opinion also is a social issue for the plantation workers.
Dignity of labour
In most of the instances, even though their take home pay is less than what they get at the estate, they are happy to go away from estate due to dignity and recognition.
Whilst the younger generation move away due to social issues discussed above, family conflicts due to lack of basic facilities, alcoholism and other social problems, the available workers are not 100 percent fit enough to perform their duties. Further, due to agitation as a result of social problems the workers do not work to their potential.
Lack of job creation incentives
Traditionally a great deal of efforts of employers have focused on quipping school leavers, first-time jobseekers and young unemployed with the technical skills and attitudes that are required from them to become more “employable” or “suitable” for the labour market.
Examples of interventions by employers in this area include:
Enterprises’ participation i n national vocational training systems and training programmes through interventions aimed at facilitating the transition of young people to the world of work (e.g. enterprise-based training) Measures to increase the number and scope of training opportunities for young people within the private sector (e.g. campaigns geared towards businesses to create or expand training places; joint efforts by employers and educational authorities to increase vocational training places and apprenticeship places in enterprises).Special training schemes organized by employers, individually or collectively, outside the framework of national training systems in order to generate the skills required by a specific industry or company, including schemes targeting disadvantaged youth.
Establishment of school-industry partnership arrangements in order to enhance the relevance of education and easing young people transition from school to work (e.g. workplace learning initiatives within the educational framework).Such arrangements were not available in the plantation in the past due to the availability of excess workers, in early 80s plantation management found it difficult to meet the demand for seeking employment by the youth and youth were pushed to work by the way of not attending school and assisting the parents at work .However even with the change of perception and aspirations of the parents and the youth as shown below the plantation management failed to take any corrective measures to come out with different interventions.
Government cannot do without business and business cannot do it without young workers and t heir representatives and contribution. There is an imperative need for different actors and institutions to join forces.
The plantation sector has a key role to play in this major endeavour. Employers and their Organizations have not only a compelling incentive to act; they also possess the experience and knowledge needed to act effectively and successfully. Failure to address the youth reluctance issue may create a major social problem not only t o t he plantations but t o t he country as a whole. Therefore, this is high time to bring about policy changes, alternative policy options and attractive modern technologies, strategies, incentive methods, social welfare programs, quality maintenance framework, wage system, productivity standards in to the plantations, which should lead plantation work as reputed and prestigious. Therefore, it is t he duty of all stakeholders, t he government, plantation management companies, plantation trade unions, NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations), community based organizations to get together and find a solution for the youth employment problem, with a total different outlook to provide required training for the plantation youth to utilize the talents of the youth in the plantations.