Unemployment Rate Of Youth On The Rise
By Dinouk Colombage and Anushka Saelen
The unemployment rate amongst the country’s youth, between 19-25 years, stands at 21% from a total population of two million people. This is an increase of 2% since 2009 according to M. Ratnayake, senior statistician at the Department of Census and Statistics.
Globally, according to the CIA fact file, this unemployment statistic places the country at 39 out of 180. Ratnayake says there has been a gradual increase in the recorded levels of unemployment.
“The increase is difficult to explain, as the development in the country has seen an increase in the number of jobs”, he said.
He was unable to comment on where the highest levels of unemployment are concentrated, but speculated that they would be mainly in the rural areas.
According to the statistician, Sri Lanka’s overall unemployment is 4.2% which is a decrease from 5.6% in 2010. Economist, Haren Dissanayake said that the increase in unemployment amongst the youth is a mystery. “A developing country should see a reduction in the level of unemployment. Sri Lanka has not increased the retirement age and so people would not be staying in work longer. For unemployment to increase in a developing country there must be a population boom, something that has not happened.”
He added that one possibility behind this issue is the reluctance of graduates to broaden their horizons in looking for new jobs. “Graduates feel that once they leave university they need to enter the field of work they studied. Oherwise their time in university would have been a waste”, he said. Danush Siriwardena, a graduate from the Colombo University with a degree in Economics, has been unemployed since December 2011. He feels that the time he spent getting his degree has been a waste. “People I know left school and started work immediately; they seem to be much better off than me.”
The graduate added that having applied to both the private and state sector for work, he found the private sector to be far more selective of whom they hired. Siriwardena is now resigned to the fact that he may be forced to find work outside of his field of expertise, an option not whole heartedly welcomed by graduates.