ADB urges Sri Lanka to address gender inequality to boost economic growth

Asian Development Bank - ADB

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has highlighted the critical role of addressing gender inequality in achieving Sri Lanka’s ambitious growth targets.

Despite having an economically active population of 8.5 million in 2022, Sri Lanka’s female labor force participation stood at only 32.1%, a decrease from 33.6% in 2018, exacerbated by the economic crisis.

Several factors contribute to this low participation rate, including the lack of safe and affordable childcare, insufficient flexible work arrangements, significant household and caregiving responsibilities traditionally assigned to women, and public transport systems that do not adequately cater to women’s needs.

The ADB’s recent outlook report suggests that while the private sector has made some efforts to improve the situation, substantial progress can be achieved if the government implements a more supportive framework.

Recommended measures include introducing flexible working hours and enforcing equal pay laws to enhance female labor participation.

Additionally, the ADB emphasizes the need for reform in labor laws to transition workers from the informal sector to formal employment, thereby offering them better protection against exploitation.

The report also proposes the consideration of an employment-linked support mechanism, such as a contributory unemployment insurance scheme, alongside related legislative reforms, to provide further security for workers.

This integrated approach is crucial for Sri Lanka as it strives to fulfill its higher economic growth aspirations while promoting gender equality in the workforce.