Bettering the lot of SL's migrant
At a time when anxiety
is continuing unabated among the local citizenry for the
security and kindred matters of our migrant workers, the
announcement by Foreign Employment Minister Dilan Perera that
those aspiring for foreign employment would be required to reach
specific skill and proficiency levels, comes as good news.
Besides, it is most encouraging that Sri Lankan women will be
discouraged from seeking employment abroad as domestic aides.
The earnings for this country generated by our migrant labour
are quite considerable and it has apparently come to the point
where Sri Lanka just cannot do without the substantial income
from this category of workers. But there was, unfortunately, no
sense of urgency until now on the part of governments to upgrade
the quality of our migrant labour and to enhance the security
and well being of our female migrant labour in particular. To be
sure, some moves were made in this direction over the years, but
they lacked the required visibility and were not substantial. If
they were otherwise, life would have been less burdensome,
especially for the generality of our women migrant workers.
Accordingly, it is heartening news that Sri Lankan women
workers would, as a matter of policy, be discouraged from
seeking employment abroad as domestic aides. Needless to say,
this category of labour has proved very vulnerable to abuses of
numerous kinds and from a purely humanistic viewpoint, it is in
the fitness of things that women are discouraged from taking up
occupations of this kind that would render them vulnerable to
indignities and humiliations of a most revolting nature. Need we
say that quite a few of these women migrant workers return home
literally in coffins as a result of the brutal violence
unleashed on them by some foreign employers?
There was a time when this country was denigrated as a land
that freely 'exported' its female labour for pecuniary gain and
this was a shaming image that needed to be wiped out. We believe
that it is perfectly in keeping with our ethical values to
ensure the absolute security of Lankan women who go abroad for
Ideally, they should be discouraged from migrating for work
as domestic aides on account of the multifarious abuses they
could be exposing themselves to, and we are glad this is being
done, but it would, nevertheless, be in order to enable them to
upgrade their work skills and competencies because this would
enhance their personal empowerment.
The personal and collective empowerment of women is, after
all, one of the best safeguards against the cruelties and
torments that are visited on them from repressive sections.
Moreover, it is highly laudable that the state is now
insisting on our migrant workers obtaining National Vocational
Qualifications of a kind before proceeding abroad. This would
ensure that our labour would not be lacking in the required
quality and would be also in a position to compete successfully
in the international labour market. Their earning capacity would
be high and so will be their empowerment.
Empowerment and competencies are among the best answers to
the problem of exploitation of labour. Accordingly, skilled
labour is what we need to aim at. While workers' rights must
always be protected and guaranteed, Sri Lanka must be
increasingly seen as a country that is brimming with labour with
marketable skills of the highest order. This would not only
enable such personnel to enhance their earnings, but would also
bolster their dignity and sense of worth.
It is also in order, to sustain vibrantly, current programmes
aimed at imparting to our school leavers in particular,
marketable vocational skills and competencies. Such programmes
need to be fully integrated into school curricular, so that
vocational skills would be considered as worthy as other school
disciplines. Labour needs to be seen as sacred, whether it be
white collar or otherwise.