Unemployment, underemployment: A critical issue for every govt. in office Featured

Unemployment, underemployment: A critical issue for every govt. in office Featured

Unemployment is a key yardstick to measure economic health. So is under-employment. If the economy maximized its efficiency and potential, everyone in employable age would find timely employment to his/her full potential at a fair wage in line with market prices. An individual who is unemployed or underemployed is both unproductive and a drain on society’s resources. Unemployment is a powerful driver that shapes government policy and plan implementation. Generally, lower unemployment rates reflect a good economic health in a country.

Sri Lanka?

As per the 2013 labor force survey conducted by the Department of Census and Statistics, Sri Lanka’s unemployed population is 384,439. Though overall, the unemployment rate stands at 4.4%, female unemployment is 6.6%. Youth unemployment, which stands at 19.1% in the 15-24 age group remains a structural issue that is persisting in Sri Lanka.

EDEX, the organizers of Sri Lanka’s largest Education Exhibition and Job Fair teamed up with LMRB to conduct a survey among a large sample of job seekers to the EDEX Job Fair. Therefore, it should be noted that the findings of this survey does not represent the views of all job seekers in the island.

These findings may be used to gain an understanding of the time gap between the different stages of ‘school to work transition’ in order to ascertain the ‘factors that prevents job seekers’ from finding the right employment in line with their qualifications and aspirations. EDEX believes this would help in discovering ways on how the time gap can be narrowed between starting to look for work and finding a suitable job. This research approach was designed to understand both the expectations of the employer when selecting a candidate for a given job and the difficulties faced by ‘him’ in finding the right candidate. It also explored initiatives that prospective employers had to ideally resort to, to successfully bridge the gap and recruit the right candidate. In total, 748 respondents (drawn from job seekers who visited the Fair) were interviewed.

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The educational level of the respondents were recorded as GCE Ordinary Level, GCE Advanced level, Diploma of less than one year duration, undergraduate, those currently studying for a recognized professional qualification (CIM, SLIM, BCS, CIMA, ACCA, CMA, ICASL, IBSL etc.), Graduates, Technically qualified (National Vocational Qualification) and those with Post graduate qualifications. Other senior job seekers and those sans formal qualifications were also interviewed.

Profile of job seekers

Survey results revealed that while Banking, Management and IT and Graphics were the most popular areas of specialization, 28% of the participants had not obtained any specialization nor were they currently in the process of obtaining one. Further, it was found that 66% of job seekers had studied in national schools with the majority studying in the Sinhala medium. English medium students were found to be only around 20%. 51% of job seekers who attended the Fair claimed to be unemployed. This proportion was as high as 72% among those who had completed their Advanced Level and 36% among graduates.

Are youth expectations in the right direction?

The survey revealed that banking was the most preferred sector among female job seekers, while IT, Engineering and Corporate Management was preferred by males. Only about 2% of the participants claimed to be interested in becoming an entrepreneur, probably because most persons attending the Fair were job seekers. There were some non-traditional dream jobs among the youth such as motivational speaker, business scientist, forensic scientist, etc. The remuneration expectations of youth job seekers which included company sponsored tours, holiday packages, vehicles etc., seemed unrealistic in comparison to their respective education, skills and experience.

Are employers getting the right candidates?

A parallel qualitative survey conducted by LMRB obtained the views of employers and their common expectations from a job seeker. This included English language proficiency, personality/character, industry experience, career focus with potential to grow, technical/creative/innovative skills together with passion to work. In order to overcome the weaknesses of job seekers, employers adopt different measures such as conducting internship programs, working with universities to organize events, providing industry exposure to university students, recruiting as trainees and providing them with ‘on the job training’ and mentoring. A common suggestion from the industry was to change the education system to make students more employable.

A survey conducted by LMRB, Sri Lanka’s leading market research agency

LMRB effectively designed the questionnaire to elicit a deep understanding of the expectations of job seekers in terms of their ideal job and the difficulties faced in finding employment on par with their qualifications. Qualitative in-depth interviews together with structured quantitative interviews were administered by a team of specially trained interviewers to those between 16-60 years, who visited the Expo in order to ascertain the aspirations of the job seekers.

To gain an employer perspective, in-depth qualitative interviews were conducted with HR representatives of companies that took part in the EDEX Job Fair. This research approach was designed to understand both expectations of the employer when selecting a candidate for a given job, and difficulties faced in finding the right candidate. It also explored initiatives prospective employers have to ideally resort to in order to successfully recruit the right candidate.

EDEX Job Fair

Was launched in January 2014 with the objective of bringing together the demand and supply aspects of employment under one roof. The aim was to showcase global employment trends and provide professional career guidance and resources which was expected to lead to gainful employment for Sri Lankan youth. EDEX also aims to create a new HR recruitment culture through the introduction of a National Job Fair.

The third consecutive EDEX Job Fair will be held over the period 23 to 25 January 2015 at the BMICH from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and all job seekers are invited to participate with their respective CVs. For more details visit or contact EDEX Secretariat – 011-5521497.


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