Cost of the war: Decline in demographic dividend?

Monday, 12 March 2012 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

As per the latest research report by the World Bank on the theme ‘More and Better Jobs in South Asia,’ a new piece of information has been revealed is the working population in Sri Lanka in relation to the non working people being the highest on the ratio with a value at around 2.2%, which is the best in South Asia, said corporate personality Rohantha Athukorala at the Annual Conference of the Sri Lanka Printing Association 2012, staged at Kings Court, Cinnamon Lakeside.

In simple words, it means that there are more working people in Sri Lanka as against the dependent population of the country. But, the serious issue from this insight is that for the business community like the printing industry, this ratio has begun to decline since 2005, which means that when this ratio was at its peak, the country could not take the best out of the population due to the 25-year-old war that plagued Sri Lanka.

This is another way of evaluating the cost of the war on Sri Lanka, said Athukorala, who has already showed with computation that the tourism industry has lost around six billion dollars directly due to the war and on FDI we have lost around three billion dollars.

On the other hand, countries like India where this ratio is at around 1.7% and is in the upward trend are making the best of the opportunity by offering business and economic opportunities for employment.

Chennai for instance hosts 22 production units from the top Fortune Five Hundred companies. In fact the State is making a claim for a separate ranking on the Competitiveness Index without being clubbed to India as a whole. This is how aggressive countries are using demographic dividends for their advantage, he said.

“Now let us not look back but plan how to make the best of the current situation in Sri Lanka,” said Athukorala.

One option is to encourage a population explosion. In fact in the Budget of 2011 it was a proposal presented where any family whose chief wage earner worked for the forces was offered financial support for the third child that one had.

Whilst this is more a psycho-socio strategy, the business world must focus on increasing productivity with training and technology infusion, commented Athukorala, especially focusing on the printing industry that can ideally be a hub for top quality printing for South Asia on an ethically manufacturing front.

“But this requires strong leadership like we see in the apparel and tea industry which I know exists in the printing industry,” said Athukorala. “May be the printing industry of Sri Lanka can take the ethical route like what apparel and tea has demonstrated  to the country.”