Featured image taken from the UN sdgs.un.org/goals/goal8
As part of my internship at the Solidarity Center, I have written a report on Sri Lanka’s progress in the sustainable development goal 8: decent work and economic growth. This 17-paged report outlines the available sources of statistics that can be used to track the various indicators of SDG 8. From the World Bank to the International Labor Organization, various credible sources of literature on Sri Lankan labor conditions have been consulted to see whether conditions have improved over the last five years since the goals have been initiated and longer.
Read the report here: SDG 8 Report
Using graphs and tables to portray the quantitative data on whatever is available, I was able to provide a rough picture of Sri Lanka’s labor economy from GDP per capita to gender-based unemployment rates. Unfortunately, it was only a rough overview because of a general lack of statistics collected by the Department of Census and Statistics in Sri Lanka. Although the World Bank and ILO do conduct their own data collection, I found that this was rather incomplete in gathering data for all indicators or years. Hence, I have had to shift the year ranges from the ideal 2015-2019 (2020 was not included due to the pandemic disrupting data collection) to somewhere between 2011-2018 wherever data was available.
This did not, however, disrupt my qualitative analyses of the various indicators as I was still able to research extensively on studies conducted by universities to find relevant information. For example, regarding labor rights and the law, I used Penn State University’s Center for Global Workers’ Rights database to compile information related to Sri Lanka, with their own valuations and links to news sources of government breaches in labor rights. Such information has coalesced into a cohesive evaluation of how much the indicator’s conditions have been satisfied on a scale of one to five, one being little to no progress and five being the indicator has been fully satisfied.
Altogether there are twelve indicators, 8.1 to 8.10 and then 8.a and 8.b. Based on my rating system, there was one rating of 1, five ratings of 2, two ratings of 3, three ratings of 4, and one rating of not applicable. There were no 5s as none of the indicators have been completed which is to be expected only five years into their enforcement. The indicator with a rating of 1 is 8.3 on the formalization of micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises into the economy. This is perhaps the largest problem relating to labor here in Sri Lanka as about 60% of the total labor force are a part of the informal labor industry where labor laws cannot be fully enforced and workers can easily be abused as they are not part of the regulatory system under the government. It should be noted that this proportion of workers in informal labor has not changed over the past six years.
One of the leading indicators in Sri Lanka is 8.7 which is about the eradication of modern forms of slavery and child labor. From 2008/9 to 2016, the proportion of children aged 15-17 involved in labor has fallen drastically from 12.9% to 2.3%. With the government-led efforts of increasing crackdowns on these types of labor, Sri Lanka is well on its way to eradicate all forms of child labor by 2025 as the goal states.
Overall, this report concludes that there are many areas of improvement that the Sri Lankan government can get through by enforcing the law more thoroughly across all regions. The biggest issue is really the lack of documentation on the nation’s progress in these endeavors which the Department of Census and Statistics must really start doing. Nevertheless, the available data do suggest that some of the government’s policies are making a significant impact on labor conditions throughout the country and that, should these continue to be implemented, Sri Lanka is on its way to fulfilling the goals set out for decent work and economic growth.