Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Sri Lanka is at full employment – There are NO takers for the million jobs the Prime Minister has promised!

I believe the Government is missing the true picture of the Sri Lankan problem.

I can give 50,000 jobs today at Rs 20,000 a month. However I want a work ethic from the employee that requires coming to work on time, and using the thumb print clocking system. I will dock pay for absenteeism and I will require discipline in the workplace, to ensure maximum productivity of my workers.
I will dock pay for productivity losses, where I expect a minimum volume of throughput from the employee and what that is depends on the particular job that he or she does, and will be related to that, whilst not being unrealistically harsh.  

I don’t want shirkers, who have to take time off for a wedding or funeral or take a relative to hospital. I will only give a 15 minute tea break for my 6 day work week, and a 45 minute lunch break working a full 8 hour shift.

I will give paid training to the employee to improve their productivity, and move onto a more responsible task, after the training. I will pay full EPF and ETF payments on this salary and make the employee permanent after the statutory probationary period.


I am serious. I don’t have to give anecdotal evidence, as I have tried to recruit people for unskilled jobs, which do not require qualifications but which with OT means one can take between Rs35K and Rs40K a month, but have had no takers. This is a serious problem!!

It is so serious that there are around 250,000 vacancies with NO takers. What is worse, those in the private sector are asking me to find them jobs in the Public Sector, as they believe I can fix them in some Government job through my connections with the Government! When I mentioned this to a person highly connected to the Government, he would not accept my assertion, and I was willing to bring the 10 people who are pestering me for the Government jobs even though they have well paying private sector jobs, merely because they believe there is security of tenure, where they cannot be sacked, they have retirement benefits and the pressure of work is much less, as they would rather be unproductive in every sense of the word. This remarkable phenomenon must be looked in context to realize the huge economic impact of the present Government’s pay raise to the public sector has set a bad precedent.

What does this tell you? There is no one desperate for a job at the wage rates offered. The point at which they will join the workforce if they are unemployed or underemployed, is around Rs40K not a cent less!

It is wise for economists to understand this, and make provision for that in their models of monetary policy and full employment equilibriums. So WE MUST direct our policy in a direction that takes the above into account, and concentrate on improving the quality of life of those who are really in need!
There is NO question that the alternative carrot of overseas employment hangs over this as a sword of Damocles, because even if the individual has no intention of going overseas, they use the argument that if they were overseas, for example as a maid, they will earn this amount, NOT giving allowance that the catch is that they cannot take time off to go for a funeral or avurudhu! And that their volume of work may be much higher than would be the case in alternate scenario.

This explains why about 50,000 vacancies as domestics in Colombo go unfilled, and about 25,000 as drivers go unfilled. Even my sister cannot find a driver in Colombo who can come to the House at 6.30am to take the child to school, and whose salary, including EPF ETF and  Overtime  would be paid by a company and who could expect to earn around Rs40,000 a month with this overtime.

The cost of leaving their families and having to find accommodation in a lodging house in Colombo, have a modicum knowledge of Colombo roads, and having to get up so early are all factors that deter this status. The point at which she could get one is Rs50,000 and provide, breakfast and lunch!  

I know of no economic theory yet, and I may have to devise this theory for my Nobel Prize, that has done extensive studies of the price point of entering the workforce in societies like Sri Lanka, where theoretical alternatives as referred to above exist, and home comforts even without a job seem to be available where temporary work for a day or two like fishing or accompanying a patient to hospital will earn enough pocket money to meet one’s needs not supplied by the home. 

We have to completely rethink employment policy due to the inflexible nature of our workers who want the job brought to their home, rather than having to go out of the home to do a job. We may have to leap into the next century to give all our people work from home with a computer type of employment opportunities which the new technology permits, whilst all production and real work will just have to shift outside our shores as we DO NOT HAVE a comparative advantage in the production of those essentials, that will just have to be sourced by way of imports.    


  1. I think the PM is aware of this problem and his plan is to provide new jobs at monthly wages of at least Rs50,000. The problem is the skill level needed to take up these jobs may not be there, as so not only the creation of employment, but also the training needed to arrive at that skill level have to be done conterminously.

    Having said that in the hospitality business, everyone wants to be a hotel GM, but the vacancies are in room boys and gardeners and pool attendants.

    While I can find 10,000 Americans who would work as a pool attendant in the US I cannot find one who would do so here! It is all about false attitudes to job dignity.

    1. While I'm willing to even work as a pool attendant for the correct salary (even though I'm a graduate) ,
      there are no jobs provided by the government.
      if the degree is only a qualification,they should tell us before hand.So,that we will quit from A/L's and get job security rather than a degree.
      I've worked for prime minister as a political contributor.But,I'm getting the sense that he is a "Wada bari dasa" (A good for nothing)