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The Labour Market Experience of University Graduates in Sri Lanka

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Abstract

Graduate unemployment has been a major socio-politico-economic problem in the small open economy of Sri Lanka for the past 35 years. The nature of the problem, causal factors and policy responses are examined in this paper with a special focus on the role of higher education within a highly competitive and knowledge-based economic environment. The evidence reveals that the problem of graduate unemployment is not entirely a university problem. It is mostly a structural issue that requires a positive response from both demand and supply sides of the labour market. On the demand side, it involves high economic growth promoted through institutional and policy support, while on the supply side, universities need to be more dynamic and market oriented in the delivery of graduate output.

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Notes

  1. Department of Census and Statistics, Quarterly Labour Force Survey, unpublished data.

  2. For more details, see Gunawardena (2005), Jayaweera (2005) and Aturupana (1996).

  3. Of the existing labour laws, the following have been identified as major impediments on investment: (a) Termination of Employment of Workmen (special provision) Act No. 45 of 1971, and its amendments; (b) Wages Board Ordinance No. 5 of 1953, and its amendments; (c) Industrial Disputes Act No. 43 of 1950, and its amendments; (d) Payment of Gratuity Act No. 12 of 1983, and its amendments; (e) Maternity Benefits Ordinance No. 32 of 1939, and its amendments; (f) Employment Provident Fund Act No. 15 of 1958 and its amendments; (g) Workmen's Compensation Act No. 19 of 1934, and its amendments and (h) Trade Union Ordinance No. 14 of 1935, and its amendments.

  4. The investment rates among the government, public sector corporations and private sector were estimated to be around 3.8, 2.2 and 22.6%, respectively in 2006. Central Bank of Sri Lanka (2006).

  5. For details, see Gunawardena (1993, 1999) and Tharuna Aruna (1999).

  6. Due to the stigma attached to being a factory worker.

  7. Rs. 3,000/- per month in 1998/1999 (US$1=Rs. 72.11).

  8. In broad terms, it refers to effective communication, personal and interpersonal skills, positive attitudes to change, etc. For some interesting discussions on the term ‘core skills’ and its applicability to HE sector, see Wolf (2002).

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Acknowledgements

The author thanks two anonymous referees of this journal for offering valuable comments and suggestions on an earlier version of the paper.

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Chandrasiri, S. The Labour Market Experience of University Graduates in Sri Lanka. High Educ Policy 21, 405–423 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1057/palgrave.hep.8300164

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