– Sunday Times – 25th October 2009
In 2001, 10% of Sri Lanka 's migrant labour faced abuse of a physical, psychological or sexual nature, with low skilled categories subjected to high levels of abuse. In 2007, there were 8,445 complaints received, a new study shows.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka earned 7% of its Gross Domestic Product (US$ 3 billion) from remittances attributable to foreign workers, 80% of these from Middle East countries and about 18% from Europe . These earnings made up 36% export earnings and 21% import payments, and have become the leading source of foreign capital to the country, overtaking inflows from foreign aid and foreign direct investment.
There are presently 1.8 million Sri Lankans estimated to be working abroad with 250,000 being the annual outflow of workers; 21% of the country's total 2007 labor force. In addition, Sri Lanka also had the highest rate of expatriation of doctors to OECD countries and the third highest rate of expatriation of nurses.
The majority of Sri Lanka's foreign workers proved to be housemaids or unskilled workers (together 70%) while 24.7% were skilled. 82% of all local labor was expatriated to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Housemaids or unskilled workers remitted 80% of their income back home, while skilled labour mostly spent their income abroad.
These facts were revealed at the launch of the first edition of the "International Migration Outlook - Sri Lanka 2008" country report commissioned by the International Organization for Migration.
The report, which was compiled by Sri Lanka's Institute of Policy Studies and based on data gathered from the "Department of Emigration and Immigration, Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment, the CID, the BOI, Sri Lanka Tourist Board, and Foreign Diplomatic Missions in Sri Lanka, IOM and others", also identified a number of areas of concern for the future of for the country's foreign employment sector, including: a "skills mismatch of what is demanded by foreign countries and what Sri Lankan workers could offer"; a "tremendous need" to make zonal remittance centres available to rural parts of the country; and a lack of conventions with the Middle East (currently only signed memorandums of understanding exist) pertaining to the treatment of Sri Lankan foreign employees.