Business Times

Chinese labour work three times harder than Sri Lankan counterparts

By Quintus Perera

The Chinese are hard workers and in the example seen in Sri Lanka, they work three times as harder than the local workforce, according to a senior Sri Lankan minister. Dr Sarath Amunugama. Senior Minister for International Monetary Cooperation, made these comments while speaking at a two day ‘National Technical Workshop on the formulation of the National Human Recourses and Employment Policy in Colombo last week.

In complementing Chinese labour, he said, “When I was the Minister in Charge of the BOI, some Chinese entrepreneurs came and said – ‘Sir, we have been given targets and there is no way Sri Lankan labour could meet that target and we cannot finish it. Can we import Chinese labour?’ I said yes, as long as you don’t violate our rules. So they brought Chinese labour and finished the job before schedule. They complete (work) three times (faster than) our fellows”.

He emphatically said that the Chinese miracle is ‘Cheap Labour’ and noted that he could summarize the Chinese Growth Strategy in two words – ‘Cheap Labour.

At the outset he elaborated that the economy of the country is very favourable with the growth rate running at almost 8.5 % and the country’s macro economy being very satisfactory while unemployment rates are going down. He said that these plus attributes are confirmed not only by the Central Bank, but also by IMF and other independent rating agencies.

He said the policies adopted by the Sirimavo Bandaranaike Government around 25 years ago are now reaping results where the country has a very conducive birth rate and population growth.

He said that a massive US$7 billion is pumped to the country every year by migrant workers which boosts the economy and benefits rural Sri Lanka, the poorest of the poor. Otherwise, he noted, that the number of employment ranging to around 1.6 million would join the unemployment queues in the country.

While Dr Amunugama relied on the favourable official employment figures, D.E.W Gunasekera, Senior Minister for Human Resourses who spoke earlier said that there could be disparities in these figures.
Longlin Li, Country Director for Sri Lanka and Maldives, International Labour Organization (ILO), said the world today is facing a number of economic and social challenges and globally more than 200 million are unemployed. In addition there is another 30 million working poor.

There should be a policy structure in place with sufficient education and skills training. Training for the labour market is also an important instrument in finding employment. Globalization has an increasing number of people with knowledge and skills to take up the emerging opportunities in the labour markets.

During the first Technical Session which was moderated Dr Saman Kelegama, Executive Director, Institute of Policy Studies, Dr Sher Verick, Senior Specialist on Employment, ILO Decent Work Technical Support Team for South Asia, speaking on ‘Global Employment challenges and Policy priorities: Learning from Times of Crisis’, said that the global financial crisis exposed economic fragilities such as debt fueled by consumption in advanced economies leading to a global imbalance and housing bubbles in US, Spain, Ireland, UK, the Baltics which resulted in high unemployment and government debt of which recovery is weak and uncertain.

Dr Verick said that though poverty is falling, yet there is inequality. The key employment challenges are the lack of structural transformation and insufficient skills mismatch and the key employment challenges are stagnation of real wages, lack of social protection among others.

Ms Naoko Otobe, Employment Policy Department, ILO speaking on ‘ILO’s perspective on Employment Policies’ said that an employment policy could be defined as to stimulate economic growth and development, meeting manpower requirements and overcoming unemployment and underemployment. An employment policy is an active policy, designed to promote full, productive and freely-chosen employment.

She said the aim of an employment policy is to ensure work for all who are available and seeking work which is as productive as possible; freedom of choice, and fullest possible opportunity for each worker to qualify for, and to use his skills and endowments in, a job for which he is well suited, irrespective of race, colour, sex, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin (non-discrimination).

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