ECONOMYNEXT – Investors in Sri Lanka are asking to be allowed to import labour at a time local professional are opposing a new economic pact with India fearing job losses, Sujeewa Senasinghe, State Minister of International Trade, said.
Companies registered with the investment promotion agency, Board of Investment, are finding it difficult to fill vacant positions in their factories, he said.
“There are 50,000 job vacancies but no takers,” Senasinghe told a news conference. “All BOI firms are asking us for labour but we can’t find.
“These firms are growing. So they are asking if they can import labour.”
He said investors faced with labour shortages in the island are wondering why Sri Lankans migrate in search of employment when there are opportunities locally.
“There are vacancies in 12 sectors including apparel, information technology and boat building with 500 – 1,000 vacancies in each sector,” Senasinghe said.
The proposed Indo – Lanka Economic and Technology Co-operation Agreement would give a fillip to the economy enabling greater integration with the growing Indian economy, he said.
Local professional and business lobbies are opposing the pact saying they fear an influx of Indian labour would cause job losses although the deal does not allow for movement of workers.
“India does not intend to trouble us,” Senasinghe said. “There are myths being propagated about ETCA – that it would cause job losses among professionals.”
Sri Lanka’s IT sector needs to be opened up to develop further.
“India has a developed IT sector like Silicon Valley with wages higher than in Sri Lanka. Our people can go there,” Senasinghe said.
“But our worker pool is limited. We need to train more people.”