School-to-work transition of youth in Sri Lanka

School-to-work transition of youth in Sri Lanka

Challenges to youth employment in Sri Lanka

This study looks into the factors affecting the challenges encountered by youth in their search for employment in Sri Lanka. The study examines the transition from school to work and identifies the hurdles encountered by them in finding employment.

The study focuses on five areas: dominant youth issues and the integration of youth into the labour market; the employability of youth, particularly their own perceptions and experiences in the school-to-work transition; perceptions and experiences of Sri Lankan youth with regard to equal opportunities for young men and women; youth opinions on and experiences of employment and entrepreneurship in Sri Lanka; and opinions and experiences of undergraduate and post-graduate university students from the Faculty of Arts, particularly because this is seen as the worst affected category when it comes to graduate unemployment.

The main findings from the study include:

  • unemployment and underemployment are major problems facing Sri Lankan youth, with the rate of unemployment consistently higher amongst women than men. The main sources of employment in the recent years have been primarily the state sector, an increasingly significant private sector, and a relatively high rate of migrant labour
  • high level education is the most useful qualification for finding decent work as perceived by youth and employers. This is surprising given the perceived inability of the current education system to fulfil the requirements of the labour market demands
  • a significant number of employers considered the gender of the applicant to be a very important factor in the recruitment of employees, more so for smaller enterprises than for bigger ones
  • government employment and own businesses were seen as the most preferred overall options of employment, although this differed by gender and ethnicity. Most groups of men (with the exception of Sinhalese urban and Estate Tamil) preferred to start their own businesses. Most groups of women (with the exception of Muslim urban) preferred state employment
  • one of the themes identified by students studying in the Faculty of Arts was the scarcity of quality science teachers in regional schools, which prompted students to choose the arts stream thereby entering the Faculty of Arts by default.