Whenever there is a death penalty (the barbaric nature of which is outright condemned) for a Sri Lankan worker, there are calls to ban Sri Lankan maids from going abroad. Emotionally and ethically this is understandable, but logically and realistically consider the following as well:
- We have 1.7 million Sri Lankans working abroad, remitting over US$ 6.5 B and there about 5 million people (25% of our population) who depend on this. Also, it is this inflow that is helping to pay for the imports (the cars we drive in Colombo) and to ‘hold’ our currency at least where it is today.
- The US$ 6.5 B that these expat Sri Lankans remit is about 4 times what we earn from tea, 50% higher than what we earn from apparel (with relatively low value addition)
- Most of the lower-end blue collar domestic helpers go for such jobs out of economic desperation. If not why would someone leave your family behind for 2 years and go abroad for job that pays you as little as US$ 250/= a month? We can all talk of morals and principals but I guess we have no clue of what it is to be in such a desperate state?
- Yet, they have no voting rights, they have no ‘vehicle permits’ (I mean a decent bus service from the airport!) and so badly treated at the airport, including by the airlines!
- Yes in some cases the ban on sending certain categories of blue collar workers has helped (e.g. India for house maids), but why aren’t there Malaysian House Maids going abroad? The answer lies in education and economic development – so that our people are skilled and find satisfying work opportunities at home.
Why are we in this state today? What have we done since independence? Who really is responsible for this? Does our ‘revolutionary’ budget address this? Do our chambers and elite professional associations even think about this?