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10 Feb 2023

Sunimalee Dias, The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka: SME garment workers face underemployment and low pay amid crises

"Apparel SMEs in grave crisis", 29 Jan 2023

Sri Lankan apparel workers are returning to their villages unable to fight the crisis of lost labour hours as most small scale garment businesses where they were working are heading towards an alarming situation come March when wages could get delayed and loans go unpaid.

“Unlike the government that can print money to pay salaries of state sector workers, we cannot do the same, so the authorities need to intervene and assist the apparel industry particularly the SME sector to sustain their organisations,” Sri Lanka Chamber of Garment Exporters SME Sector Secretary General Hemantha Perera told the Business Times.

Though no workers have been laid off, the SME sector is also facing the 40 per cent crunch in orders as a result of which they have been compelled to lower the number of work hours from about 10-12 hours per day to 8 hours per day.

“Some are working only three, four or five days a week,” Mr. Perera said adding that as a result of this workers are finding it difficult since their income level has drastically reduced and with the high prices in Colombo sending money home has become unbearable.

The take-home salary of workers that was in the range of Rs.40-60,000 has now drastically dropped to about Rs.25-30,000 which is just the basic salary.

More than 30 per cent of workers in the SME sector are leaving their jobs and at the same time skilled workers and executives and senior staff are migrating for better prospects...