To check this claim, FactCheck consulted data from the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, the Department of Census and Statistics, and Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment and the World Bank.
The minister claims that (a) the USD 7 billion of foreign exchange remittance income is contributed by housemaids employed in the Middle East, (b) USD 5.6 billion in forex earnings is from the apparel sector and USD 2 billion is from the tea sector, (c) Both the apparel and tea sector are dominated by a female workforce.
On claim (a) the total remittances reported by the minister are correct, but the minister has over-attributed the remittance contribution from the Middle East (ME), because ME accounted for only 3.7 billion of workers’ remittances (on average), not the total 7 billion. It is also notable that men outnumbered the recorded flow of women to the ME in the last five years.
On claim (b), net foreign exchange income from the apparel sector was USD 2,431 million on average. Income from tea exports was about USD 1.4 billion. Both these fall well below the figures cited by the minister.
On claim (c), according to Annual Survey of Industries published by the Department of Census and Statistics, about 70% of the apparel sector work force consists of women. According to a sample survey conducted by the World Bank in 2012, the latest available data FactCheck could find, about 53% of estate sector workers consist of women. Therefore, the minister is correct that the workforce of these sectors is dominated by women.
The minister is correct about women’s dominance in tea and apparel industries, but the numbers on foreign exchange benefit to Sri Lanka that are cited by him are wrong on all three counts (See factcheck.lk for a table with more details).
Therefore, we classify his statement as Partly True.
Additional Note: Women being the dominant Sri Lankan migrant workforce in the ME is difficult to verify due to poor availability of data. (Migration data in the last five years recorded more men going as workers to the Middle East).
*FactCheck’s verdict is based on the most recent information that is publicly accessible. As with every fact check, if new information becomes available, FactCheck will revisit the assessment.
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