Women Unemployment In Sri Lankan calls for action
It was surprising for me to learn the tribulations women unemployment can lead to from stress at an initial stage to major and minor crimes that consist of murders, rapes, drugs, alcohol, and bribes during my summer vacation in Sri Lanka. Just imagine if you can't pay your children’s school fees, house rent, electricity and telephone bills and if you can't feed your family, suddenly other issues become a whole lot less important to a family, espeor actioncially as a woman. If you still have a job to help you to gain a decent income and you can still pay your rent or a lot more consider yourself as fortunate. women are living on the edge of financial disaster than the men. Especially after the deadly turmoil of war in Sri Lanka; women have come forward to play the roles of bread winners after the deaths of their husbands. After interviewing a couple of women on my trip to worn torn areas in Sri Lanka, I came to understand that at times it can be really easy to get caught up in the data and the statistics of the economic collapse profounded in media and forget that there are many real unheard stories behind these numbers. The truth is that these women have had their lives absolutely devastated by this economic and conflict crisis, and things are only going to get much worse in the years ahead. Many women who find themselves out of work don't even understand what is going on because all they know is that they desperately want someone to give them a job and that they will work night and day if they could just get a chance to do so. My interviewees as follows unfolded the truth and general consensus regarding the reasons behind unemployment.
I accidently bumped into a twenty five year old young girl Varuni De Silva, struggling to come out of drug addiction and was undergoing a rehabilitation program. She was a bachelor who had graduated from a well established Sri Lankan university with a second upper in music engineering. She had left her poor home, Anuradhapura and had come to the capital city to try her new fortunes in a new world. Since then she had been enthusiastically embarked on finding a job that would pay back her loans she had taken from her friends and in helping her family fight poverty. However, due to the pressure she had from her peers and the stress and negative feelings she had to deal with in not being employed at her age made her end up in drug addiction. She was victimized by a group of friends and a broken love relationship to take up into drug addiction after failing to live unto their promises on finding her a job. She initially started it as a way to fight boredom, but realized that it was highly influential on her that resulted in disastrous outcomes. “My father passed away and my mother struggled a lot to give me and my two sisters this education. Now I feel I have lost value for my life, when I can’t pay back for what she has given to me” says Varuni explaining her plight to me. She further stated how her lack of English skills had resulted her in not being able to compete for a job. Yet, she has hopes for the future and is waiting for a opportunity to bring out her aspirations.
Prof. Vadini Devadawson of Eastern University says it is the lack of a good education system and positive mind frames that needs to be instilled in the youth and rural communities for development. “The youth are often enticed to take up government jobs even when the private companies provide them better salaries and good career prospects. They rely on government jobs for the fringe benefits, security, insurance benefits, and loan and pension facilities”. Her argument was that the private companies are discouraged to invest on the youth of the country as result of the high level of employees who drop out of employment with them when they secure employment in the public sector. If we offer an extensive look at the employer’s perspective, the graduates from local universities lack self confidence, fluency in English and computer studies, and the right attitude to go with the work they do. The Sri Lankan youth lack the fundamental understanding of the job market and opportunities available for them in their own environment.
Mrs. Sneha Abeysighe a famous leading school tutor in Colombo says that “There is a lack of opportunities to inculcate ideas that will help them in their long run. Higher studies are very important, and a degree is considered the least qualification to secure employment in Sri Lanka”. She believes that the type of skills produced by the education system is also sometimes not suitable to the job market in terms of both curriculum content and requirements of the job market.
Even with the free education system here in Sri Lanka, we cannot be contented with the opportunities which the rural communities have in education or in the job market. It is true that the level of both English and basic computer knowledge has been widely spread in Colombo- the capital during the last few years, but the situation in villages in terms with proficiency in both these subjects is something we cannot be happy about. The government and policy makers of the country are way behind in implementing projects to motivate and inspire the future generation, the youth of the country. It is evident that the schools and universities are more conscious in using outmoded and outdated information and methodologies which does not provide the students necessary skills. The lectures are based on blackboard, chalk and open books, while closed book exams are conducted to test the capabilities of each students on the spoon-fed information. There are no presentations, self learning methods, leadership forums to enhance their capabilities. Therefore, it is time for us to think what is going to happen to the thousands of students who pass out of the university annually. In this dilemma, we need to think as to whether university entrance should be restricted according to the vacancies available in the job market. This will enable students to avoid anxiety and disappointment amongst them as they spend 3-4 years earning a degree in a relevant field of study. The government and private sector should be encouraged to come up with innovative ideas to invest money in developing English and computer skills among the rural students. These programs should include English lecture sessions, IT workshops, leadership forums and civic management to identify the potential of women and grant them opportunities to display them to the public.
Mr. Ramachandran, a manager from a leading garment industry located in Bangladdesh pointed out in general terms that the some feel that they are way behind to compete with the fast growing multinational companies and economy of the country. “They take a degree qualification seriously and believe that it is the only way to secure employment. This in reality is wrong”. He says that they are too confident with their qualifications and academic capabilities and lack the training or right skills to apply to the job and often get neglected by companies who want to hire them. He concluded by saying that the unemployed are rapidly changing their ideas and not wanting to continue their jobs for a long time encourages companies to avoid them in order to save their resources and time wasted on training these people.
Logana Kanagapillai is a 43-year-old mother of two children. Since 2006, she has worked as a dress maker after her husband being displaced due to conflict in her home territory of Jaffna. Hers is a story of success and overcoming great obstacles to become the self-sufficient provider for her family she is today. “Times were hard and money was scarce”. She operates a small business, dress making with a capital of only $10. She was able to maintain at least one meal per day, but the strain was great as she attempted to put all her children through school. “ I am happy with what I am doing rather than to live on debt”. She seems to be optimistic and says that sometimes even though, there is no shortage of jobs, the unemployed waiting for better job openings and not willing to take up bad jobs that are readily available in the market also causes unemployment. She said that with less money coming in, she had to give up a lot of amenities that they were used to as well as a lot of necessities. Ruwani Nisansala an undergraduate student from Asian Univeristy for women says, “There are many opportunities available to the women in the garment, rubber and tea industries, it is the youth who are unwilling to take up these jobs or start their own businesses in farming or growing crops in bare lands”. She believes that everyone is expecting to get white collar jobs and neglect ways of improving their life styles by giving preference to agriculture even when Sri Lanka is filled with resources to support the endeavor.
Sylvia Edward, an undergraduate student who is following an external degree at the Colombo University from an unemployed youth’s perspective says. “When we have studied years under very difficult, poor living conditions, it becomes pointless and worthless when a suitable job remains out of reach even with a degree qualification”. She believes that it is absurd to expect the graduates to take up jobs that are well below their academic qualifications. She also stated that this was exactly what is happening in the current society’ many youth work as house maids, laborers or prostitutes. Poor wages with no career advancements, distrust and disrespect towards the woman’s capabilities also aggravate the existing poor conditions and undermine a woman’s role to be inferior to men and not progress in life.
Sri Lanka can be credited as an island benefited by an extravagant amount of resources. However, the country right now is struggling to meet the standard it should be in terms of the economy, employment rate and the development of the country even with full access to human and terrestrial resources especially after the deadly turmoil of war. The women are not aware of the opportunities available for them in their environment and are less proactive in finding employment by them. Educated women seek better employment opportunities abroad and professional migrate for better career prospects. The government that had spent lots of money in training and educating those feels threatened when all of it becomes vain and the knowledge of this educated group of citizens is used for the sake of other countries. Women unemployment calls us a sense of urgency to come up with ideas to develop a suitable action plan to overcome the unemployment issue. Sri Lanka should create more and more employment opportunities for women that will pave way for country’s development and productivity. They should also be addressing the general factors that affect the women to be unemployed, so that this issue can have minimal effects on the development of the country in future. We should not be blaming each other, but think critically of ways to improve the country’s economy and enable graduates to seek employment. Resources alone are not sufficient to progress the conditions in Sri Lanka. The education system, attitudes towards jobs should be transformed into a healthy one, while resources are recognized and is utilized effectively. Subsequently, individuals like Varuni no longer would feel threatened to live her life to the fullest. Her plight serves as a social commentary that provides the platform for us to identify the values of the right type of education and employment required for a society's dvelopment.