1Q unemployment hits 10-year high

Tuesday, 21 July 2020 00:25 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • Census Dept. data shows unemployment reaching 5.7%, up from 4.5% in 4Q 2019
  • Workers slip more into agriculture, youth and women more likely to be jobless 
  • Both men and women in formal workforce decline from 1Q 2019

Sri Lanka’s unemployment rate rose to a 10-year high of 5.7% in the first quarter of 2020, the Census and Statistics Department said yesterday, rising from 4.5% recorded in the fourth quarter of last year, indicating fewer job opportunities even before the COVID-19 lockdown.    

The number of unemployed persons is estimated at 483,172 during the first quarter of 2020. The unemployment rate recorded its lowest point of 4% in the fourth quarter of 2011 and has largely remained under 5% for most of this decade, data released by the Census Department showed. 

However, the data indicates an uptick in unemployment even before the curfew imposed to contain COVID-19 and the subsequent virus linked economic impact. The Census Department noted that there was also a corresponding increase in the Agriculture sector, which also has a large contingent of informal workers. 

“During the first quarter of 2020, the total number of employed persons in Sri Lanka is estimated at about 8 million. Of which, about 46.4% engaged in Service sector, 27.1% in Industry sector and 26.5% in Agriculture sector. In the first quarter of 2020, there is an increase in employment in the agriculture sector compared to the first quarter of 2019 by 108,261,” the report said. 

In Sri Lanka unemployment among females is typically much higher than men and this remained consistent in the first quarter of 2020 as well. Youth and female unemployment contributed more to the overall unemployment of the country. Men made up 72.4% of the formal workforce, down from 73.4% in the first quarter of 2019 and women slipped to 32.5% from 34.9% during the same period. 

The overall unemployment rate reported for female is 9.6% while it is 3.7% for males. Youth unemployment rate (age 15-24 years) corresponding to the first quarter 2020 is 26.8% and that is the highest reported unemployment rate among all age groups. Further the unemployment rates for males and females are 21.1% and 36.3% respectively for age group 15-24.

Highest employment share is in the Service sector and this is true for both male and female, while the lowest shares are for the Agriculture sector. Among employed females 27.7% is in the Agriculture sector while this share is 25.9% for males. The highest participation rate for males is reported from age group 35-39 years (97.1%), while that for female is reported from 45-49 age group (48.3%).