Youth unemployment issues
In relative terms, Sri
Lanka's economy is reportedly doing well and we are now
considered a Middle Income Country with a very substantial per
capita GNP. No doubt, these are notable developments when seen
against the backdrop of the deepening recessionary trends of the
global economy. We are "sailing along" and this is to be warmly
In addition, we are given to understand by some ministers and
state functionaries that poverty in Sri Lanka is fast becoming
something of the past. On this score too there could be much
gladness all around but some state officials are also forthright
on the fact that youth unemployment is a matter for worry.
It could be argued that youth unemployment-particularly
educated youth unemployment - has always been with us and would
always be with us.
It is one of those things which has a stubborn presence in
countries such as ours and is likely to prove an intractable
problem, it could be argued. Moreover, it is now not only a
worldwide phenomenon but one that is aggravating globally - it
is likely to be pointed out.
True, all this is quite plain to see, but youth unemployment
should not only have us worried on account of its implications
for social stability but also in consideration of the issues it
throws-up for development planners and other decision-making
sections of this country.
We apparently have in our midst, economic growth to a degree,
coupled with unemployment among youth. How come we have this
unlikely combination? This issue should engage us as we go along
with the task of keeping the local economy in fine trim.
There are some curious facts on the global economic scene
currently, which could be of relevance to us in this connection.
Brazil, for example, is growing in economic terms at a
remarkably rapid pace but its literacy rate, reportedly, is
leaving much to be desired. Brazil's economic planners are
currently addressing this issue because as they very rightly see
it, it is to the degree to which a country is literate that its
citizenry would be productive and self-sufficient.
Moreover, in Brazil, the wealth gap between the microscopic
rich, who are exceedingly wealthy, and the rest of the populace,
is growing considerably. This issue too is being countenanced by
the country's authorities but Brazil is continuously showcased
by the champions of economic liberalization in particular, as a
most successful economy.
No generalizations could be made on the basis of Brazil's
development experience but the issues it is beginning to face
could have some instructional value. One could say on
considering Brazilian issues that growth should accompany equity
if a country's development trajectory is to merit attention.
However, here in Sri Lanka we apparently have a degree of
growth coupled with equity to some extent, but youth
unemployment is beginning to have us worried. How do we account
for these contradictory trends, particularly considering that we
are a highly literate country?
Apparently, although the school recruitment rate in Sri Lanka
is quite high at all levels, we need to question whether the
education imparted at secondary and undergraduate levels in
particular is relevant to national needs. That is, could the
education that is imparted help in furthering the development
process? Is it of relevance to employers?
These are just two questions that need to be answered in this
If unemployment is considerable among our educated youth,
then, the question needs to be asked whether the education which
has been imparted is utilizable by the productive sectors of our
Or else our economy is not moving at the desired pace. This
too could account for some of our youths being unemployed. All
these and more queries need to be answered by the Lankan polity
and other relevant sections as we move along. Apparently, fresh
and innovative thinking on these issues is needed.