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Wed, 22 November 2017 08:01:09
Sri Lanka plantations facing labour shortages
14 Sep, 2013 08:50:10
Sept 14, 2013 (LBO) - Sri Lanka's large plantations, especially those growing tea, are facing labour shortages, with young people moving out to cities in search of other jobs, a senior industry official said.
"The shortage of workers to undertake regular agricultural operations and development programs especially in tea plantations has become a common trend in almost all tea growing districts in the country," Lalith Obeysekera, head of the Planters' Association of Ceylon, a 150 year old entity dating back to British coffee and tea farmers told its annual meeting.

"Estate youth who in the past sought work in the plantations are no longer interested, and a majority of them prefer to move out of estate life."

"One of the strategies is to opt for diversification into other crops which are less labour intensive."

Analysts say labour shortages bordering Sri Lanka's Western province are particularly acute.

Sri Lanka's estate labour is unionized which has prevented firms from offering different wages in different areas or linking productivity with wages.

Labour mobility - especially urbanization - is an important factor in lowering poverty and meeting aspirations of people and the ending of high labour intensive activities is a natural outcome in the absence of in-migration, analysts say.

Plantations were now growing crops like oil palm which were less labour intensive, Obeysekera said.

Anura Ekanayake, a former head of Sri Lanka's Ceylon Chamber of Commerce who was government official in charge of expropriated plantations and was late involved in their privatization said labour migration abroad was part of the problem.

But firms could also change work practices to make better use of people he said.

Workers still walked to fields wasting an hour of more of productive time, and also walked back and forth some distance to weigh their plucking wasting time he said.

Sri Lanka's unemployment is now about 4 percent, down from 20 percent in the 1970s when expropriation and self-sufficiency policies of the elected ruling class in the island pushed the people to their knees, analysts say.

During feudal and European colonial times Sri Lanka had to import labour from India for many activities ranging from tapping toddy, peeling cinnamon and to later growing coffee and tea.

Sri Lanka has had comparatively higher living standards and a more dynamic economy from the times of its ancient kings as the island was located in a hub of a vast trading network in the so-called 'silk route of the sea'.

It connected China, Vietnam (Champa), Javanese and Sumatran thalassocracies, Thailand (Pattaya) and Eastern India via Sri Lanka to the Persian Sassanid Empire and later Arabia.

Critics say unemployed rose after the end of British rule when trade liberties were restricted, taxes were raised, state interventions and currency depreciation became the norm as tools of the Western European nation-state including a legislating parliament was used against the people.

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READER COMMENT(S)
1. suds Sep 14
I think we should get rid of these slave labour industries. What do we get in return for exporting tea. If the new generation can work on other industries like textile and knowledge work they can bring better dollars to the country.