By Anjali Caldera
There was a considerable decline in the Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR) and in the employed population; thus a notable increase in the unemployment rate during the first six months of this year (2020) compared to the corresponding period of the previous year (2019) due to COVID-19 and other persisting structural issues.
As reported by, the Department of Census and Statistics the unemployment rates among females, youth and educationally qualified persons remained at high levels during the first half of 2020.
In terms of a sectorwise labour force, declines were observed across all sectors; urban, estate and rural during the first half of 2020 mainly due to the considerable drops in the female labour force.
According to a recent report on economic development, issued by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) the labour force declined to 8.470 million during the reference period from 8.603 million when compared with the same period in 2019, recording a decline of 1.5 per cent. There was a significant decline of 6.0 per cent in the female labour force. The male labour force increased by 0.9 per cent during the said period compared to the corresponding period in 2019. But it is said the male labour force in the urban and estate sectors recorded marginal declines.
In line with the decline of the labour force, LFPR declined to 50.6 per cent in the said period from 52.6 per cent in 2019. Consequently, female LFPR declined to 32 per cent from 34.7 per cent in the corresponding period of 2019. The male LFPR also declined to 72.1 per cent from 73.4 per cent.
As per the CBSL report, the employed population in all categories declined by 2.4 per cent to 7.998 million in the first half of 2020 compared to 8.193 million in the corresponding period of 2019.
This decline was led by both industry and services sectors, as an increase in employed population was observed in the agriculture sector. In the industry sector, declines were observed across all sub-sectors.
With the declining employed population, the unemployed population increased significantly by 14.8 per cent to 0.471 million during the first half of 2020 compared to 0.410 million in the corresponding period of the previous year, attributable to COVID-19.
This increase in the unemployed population was mainly driven by unemployed females who contributed to 58 per cent of the total increase. The increase in unemployed females was recorded at 16 per cent, while the increase in unemployed males was 13.4 per cent during the reference period.
The unemployment rate increased to 5.6 per cent in the first half of this year compared to 4.8 per cent recorded in the first half of 2019. The unemployment rate of females increased significantly to 8.9 per cent from 7.2 per cent in the corresponding period of 2019. The unemployment rate of males increased to 3.9 per cent from 3.4 per cent.
Unemployment rates among all age categories increased during the said period. Among these age categories, youth (aged 15-24 years) unemployment, which continued to remain at a high level, increased substantially to 27.3 per cent from 20.8 per cent in the same period of 2019.
Unemployed youth contributed to 98 per cent of the total increase in the unemployed population: More than a quarter of the youth labour force being unemployed bring to the surface issues related to underutilisation of the most productive human capital towards the economic growth of the country.