Sri Lanka’s outward labour migration in the first half of 2022 surpassed the 2021 full-year figure amid the prevailing deep economic and political crisis in the country.
The number of Sri Lankans departed the country for foreign employment opportunities surged to 140,701 persons, compared to 30,757 departures recorded in the corresponding period of last year and the 117,952 departures recorded for the full year, according to the Central Bank.
In June alone, 26,944 Sri Lankans left the country for employment opportunities abroad, compared to 22,194 departures in the previous month.
The vast majority of Sri Lankans left the country for foreign employment in the unskilled and domestic aid (mostly housemaid) categories, with only 7,977 departing the country for employment categorised under skilled labour.
Recently, the government relaxed some of the barriers, allowing and encouraging employees in the public sector to take up foreign employment opportunities.
The Cabinet of Ministers also recently decided to lift the controversial family background report (FBR) requirement for female migrant workers to promote female labour migration from Sri Lanka.
However, the uptick seen in outward labour migration since late last year is yet to be reflected in the official workers’ remittances, with a large swath of these funds continue to come through unofficial channels such as Undiyal and Hawala, due to attractive parallel exchange rates.
For the month of June, worker remittance inflows to Sri Lanka were down by 42.6 percent to US $ 274 million while for the first half, such inflows plunged by 51.6 percent to US $ 1.6 billion. The government is expected to unveil an incentive package shortly to lure more remittances through official channels.