Every year as we commemorate International Workers Day on 1st of May, we pay tribute to the millions of people in the private and public sector in Sri Lanka and beyond, who work tirelessly to maintain the global economy as well as contribute towards new innovations in this modern world.
Following the end of the second world war, the world began to see massive industrialization and advancements in manufacturing and production technology which enabled the advancement of telegraph and railroad networks, gas and water supply, and sewage systems, which had been concentrated earlier only to a few select cities. Efforts by the working class back then led to a new wave of globalization, which since then, has only kept strengthening.
In every country, the contribution of the working class has been endless. Even in countries such as Sri Lanka, the working class have made massive contributions in furthering the economy, even while we fought a 30 year civil war. Today, it is because of the working class that Sri Lankan products have gained fame in global markets and our industries have gained international fame.
Every year as political parties hold May Day parades to appreciate the labor force, this year, as we all know things have been different. Facing a deadly contagious virus, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed our path towards the future. It has destabilized economies, hampered various sectors, forced thousands of people into unemployment and tested the capacity of the global health sector. Today, while we battle the virus, due to health restrictions, we are limited in many ways and millions of people have been confined to their homes for weeks. Globalization has suffered a severe blow.
The COVID-19 virus has now changed our future. Industries will now have to study the new demands of the global market and reinvent while we in Sri Lanka will also have to re-structure our exports. Sectors such as tourism, which will take time to recover will have to work harder in attracting tourism but at the same time ensuring the health and safety of foreign and local nationals. Unemployment will also rapidly rise in all sectors. Therefore, we, as the world now need to strategize and prepare for a post COVID-19 world.
Industries will have to accept that global demands will be different. The Sri Lankan government has already begun to study the new global export market and think of what products we need to cater. Furthermore, out of Sri Lanka’s 22 million population, 4 million of our nationals are working overseas. While they have for years, been contributing towards bringing in vital foreign exchange to the country, in these crucial times, this certain labor force may face unemployment due to the virus sparing no country. It will then be our responsibility to integrate this work force into our system so that livelihoods can continue undeterred.
Further, Sri Lanka may face a short term food crisis due to certain ban in imports which will lead to our work force to re-adjust their manufacturing and cater to the domestic market. While I have encouraged home production, manufacturers will have to study the immediate domestic demand and ensure they meet the demand and supply market so that we overcome our food shortage.
Sri Lanka presently has an estimated 1.5 million public sector work force, with another 100,000 to be added soon. The remaining is the private sector. Therefore, a public private partnership is now needed more than ever so that both the public and private sector benefit in order to sustain them selves and well as keep the economy afloat. Both the sectors will have to ensure that the unemployment level which has widened due to the coronavirus, will be limited by ensuring opportunities are available. Hope both the public and private sector will find ways to keep jobs continuing while at the same time look at new avenues which will ensure the livelihoods do not get hampered.
Today, as we appreciate the working force, this May Day is like no other as it has changed our future. The labour force now has an immense challenge ahead of them to build up economies and sectors and while it will be a huge task, I am confident it will be done. The Sri Lankan labor force has never failed to amaze me, whether it be through local manufactures or new innovations.
While I, today, pay tribute to the thousands of people in the forefront of the pandemic, I appreciate the work force for standing strong and being ready to move forward. While the world has come to a standstill I am confident we will make a comeback stronger than ever. My best wishes are with you all.