71% of SL’s Rural Workers in Non-Farm Jobs - WB
By Paneetha Ameresekere
Seventy one per cent of Sri Lanka’s rural population is engaged in non-farm jobs, the World Bank (WB) in a publication dated 1 October, but released on its website only on Monday (18) said. The publication titled ‘The Rural Nonfarm Sector and Livelihood Strategies in Sri Lanka’ however said that a large share of farmers have access IT equipment in their household. The WB further said that according to latest available data, in 2016, there were more than 6.4 million rural workers, of whom around 3.3 million were in nonfarm wage employment and 1.3 million in non-farm selfemployment, with the remainder in farming. In total, about 71 per cent of rural workers were engaged in non-farm activities.
The majority of non-farm jobs are in the services and industries sectors linked to the broader agricultural value chain through input supply, processing, transportation and marketing, where such activities being related to the food and beverage manufacturing sector beings one such example, it said. Though better education is strongly associated with a higher participation in and pay off from non-farm activities, nonetheless education does not seem to influence the choice between engaging in farm employment and unskilled non-farm employment, highlighting a possible skills barrier to better-paying non-farm jobs, the WB said.
About a third of the jobs in the farm sector are unskilled occupations, with most of the rest in skilled agriculture, forestry, and fishery, it said. More than a quarter of rural nonfarm workers are highly skilled, being managers and professionals, compared to less than two per cent of farm workers. Rural farm workers as a whole are also much more likely to be in elementary occupations relative to non-farm workers, the WB said. Both men and women made gains in attaining non-farm skilled employment, with women being more likely to have found a job in the public sector, vis-à-vis rural worker employment.
The public sector created nearly 20 per cent of all new jobs between 2006 and 2016 in the rural sector and women took up about 80 per cent of them. Skilled jobs among rural workers accounted for an overwhelming majority of employment growth over the same period, resulting in a total of 3.7 million skilled and 0.9 million unskilled workers in non-farm sectors in 2016.
Women in the non-farm sector are more likely than men to be working in a skilled job, partly because of their overrepresentation in the public sector, the WB said. Workers who have an elementary occupation are regarded as ‘unskilled’ while the rest are classified as ‘skilled,’ it added. Of the rural non-farm working population, 17.5 per cent are engaged in trade-related activities, followed by 11.4 per cent in construction, 9.9 per cent each in textiles/apparel and public administration and eight per cent in transport activities, the WB said.