By:Staff WriterColombo (LNW):Hundreds of thousands of people are leaving Sri Lanka not just to better themselves but out of sheer necessity as the state of the economy is so bad that every day many youths are seen in long queues forming outside the Department of Immigration in Colombo to seek greener pastures.
The Sri Lankan government, hell bent on increasing remittances as a source of foreign currency, is fueling this growing exodus.
It has lowered the minimum age at which at women can migrate for work from 25 to 21. It has relaxed the age guidelines so that children as young as 2 years old can be left behind to be looked after by relatives or carers.
Under this set up Sri Lanka’s workers’ remittances in the month of June 2023 were recorded at US$ 475.7 million, according to the latest figures from the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL).
Accordingly, the cumulative figure for the first six months of the year (Jan – June 2023) is USD 2,822.6 million, which is an increase of 75.3% from the corresponding period of the previous year.
Workers’ remittances have been a key pillar of Sri Lanka’s foreign currency earnings providing a substantial cushion against the widening trade deficit and thereby enhancing the external sector resilience of the country.
Sri Lanka Foreign worker remittances was recorded as US$ 480 million in May 2023, Minister of Labour and Foreign Employment Manusha Nanayakkara said.
With the May figures, total value of remittances recorded for the year 2023 was recorded as US$ 2.347 Bn compared to US$ 1.335 Bn received in 2022 during the same period.
The Minister further said that a further US$ 150 million is required monthly as remittance to reach the pre-crisis levels. He further said that the government is working towards making Sri Lanka a high skill export hub.
The Bureau of Foreign Employment said more than 200,000 people had left for jobs abroad – compared last year with 120,000 for the whole of 2021 – many of them following the well-worn path to the Middle East.
Host countries are poised to take advantage of Sri Lanka’s economic crisis by lifting their migrant intakes. Saudi Arabia recently announced it would lift its intake of skilled Sri Lankan workers to 400,000 from the current 180,000.
Now Malaysia has said it is ready to welcome Sri Lankan workers. Even universities in Japan and South Korea have got in on the act by offering incentives to bright young Sri Lankan students.
The talk of a brain drain is now a reality. The Association of Government Medical Officers sounded the alarm by announcing that 500 doctors had left the country in 2022, some without due notice, leaving huge gaps in the health and hospital system.