Our aim is to secure lives of migrant workers – President
Although the repatriation of Sri Lankan workers from abroad in the wake of the COVID-19 spread made a considerable change to our overall employment profile, our aim was to secure the lives of our workforce, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said.
“Sri Lanka has a considerable workforce that is employed outside the country. Even during the period when restrictions for air travel were in force, we repatriated nearly 15,000 Sri Lankans from destinations abroad so far,” the President said addressing ILO Global Summit on ‘COVID-19 and the World of Work – Building a Better Future of Work’ yesterday.
The Summit hosted by the International Labour Organisation commenced on 1 July will conclude today 9 July. Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres, Director General of the World Health Organisation and Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu and several world leaders addressed the largest ever online gathering of workers, employers and governments.
Participants discussed how to address the economic and social impact of the pandemic, which has laid bare the extreme vulnerability of millions of workers and enterprises.
The Global Summit examines a range of issues, including how to promote full and productive employment in this new environment, what needs to be done to address the massive vulnerabilities in the world of work made evident by the pandemic; which workers require particular support and attention, how to position the reduction and elimination of poverty as central objectives of the recovery process and how the international community can come together with real common purpose and rededicate itself to the delivery of the UN’s 2030 Agenda.
The President said he appreciates the efforts that all countries have taken for smooth sailings of their ‘Worlds of Work’ at this sensitive period when we all are fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
“COVID-19 posed us with perhaps the greatest human crisis in the modern period. As a result, the ‘World of Work’ is undergoing a massive reorganisation in the post COVID-19 period in developed as well as developing countries alike.”
Explaining the Sri Lankan context, the President said particular attention was paid to safeguard our work force from the shock wave that was created by the impact that this pandemic had on the global economy.
We have an active labour force of 8.6 million, out of which, the private sector employs nearly 3.5 million. The social security measures that we introduced during the COVID outbreak covered all sectors of this workforce.
“The most notable one was the payment of a fixed monthly allowance (of Rs. 5,000) to the most affected self-employed categories in our work force during April and May. These included all employees on a daily wage as well as many other vulnerable categories such as pre-school teachers and self-employed persons”, President said.
Sri Lankan workers who returned from overseas will now have the choice to join the local labour force, without returning to their original countries of employment. This in turn will shape the ‘new normal’ of our ‘world of work’. Skills sector of Sri Lanka required a re-thinking and re-engineering, in order to accommodate the new normal of the post-COVID period said the President adding that ‘Re-skilling’ and ‘up skilling’ of employees will be addressed in our action plan to empower those who lost employment during this crisis, he added.