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No social protection for informal sector: Nimal Siripala

By Yoshitha Perera

There is no social protection system for informal sector employees in Sri Lanka, Minister of Labour Nimal Siripala de Silva told The Sunday Morning, pointing out that it was the main reason why the Government was keen to open the country.

The Minister said that while employees in the informal sector make up a significant portion of the economy, there was no form of social security for those workers.

“The informal sector is not under the purview of the Labour Ministry. Yet, as a cabinet minister, I’m concerned about this sector,” he said.

De Silva explained that even during the current conditional lockdown, most of the informal sector employees were permitted to continue their work.

“We cannot completely lock down the country since there is no social security system for employees in the informal sector,” he added.

He further noted that there were about 56,000 vacancies at free trade zones (FTZs) and private sector companies, adding that people were hesitant to apply for these jobs.

“There is a problem in our country that everyone needs a government job. However, with the present financial situation, the Finance Minister gave a very clear directive that the Government cannot make more recruitments for the next financial year, except for the necessary staff for essential services,” the Minister said.

Speaking to The Sunday Morning, Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) Director of Research Dr. Nisha Arunatilake said the impact of the pandemic was higher on low-skilled (informal sector) workers.

“It should also be noted that the unemployment effect on the informal sector is not only due to loss of employment; it is also due to loss of income due to reduced working hours. It is possible that many in the informal sector still had their jobs, but their earnings would be lower due to the decrease in demand as well as decreased working hours,” she said.

Dr. Arunatilake further stated that the exact number of informal sector workers was unknown.