Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka: 40% of tsunami-victims who have lost their jobs still need means of livelihood - 6 months after

News and Press Release
Originally published
Six months after the tsunami, 40 per cent of the affected people who have lost their jobs are still in urgent need of livelihood recovery assistance. Nine out of 10 men and women in affected areas lost their jobs due to the tsunami. As of May 2005, only about 60% of them managed to regain some source of income. These are findings from a recent survey by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) on the status of livelihood recovery.
The livelihood losses have an enormous impact on the women and men affected by the tsunami. "Continuous monitoring of the recovery process is of key importance as it provides necessary guidance for assistance providers", says Claudia Coenjaerts, Director of the ILO Office in Colombo.

The Needs Assessment Survey for Income Recovery (NASIR) interviewed, in April 2005, 1,600 households in eight affected districts: Colombo, Galle, Hambantota , Ampara, Batticaloa, Trincomalee, Mullaitivu and Jaffna. It covered people living in camps, those displaced who live with relatives as well as women and men not displaced but living in affected areas and surroundings within 300 meters of the coastal belt. It follows up from the Livelihood Rapid Assessment Survey carried out by ILO and WFP in mid-January 2005.

The results of this survey will be used in the planning and delivery of government and non-government livelihood assistance provided under the umbrella of the Rapid Income Recovery Programme (RIRP).

Eighty seven per cent of households interviewed suffered loss or damage of their productive assets. Areas most affected were Mullaitiviu, Ampara and Batticaloa districts, where poverty levels are already high and people need development support. The same proportion (87%) lost their livelihood. While 60 per cent have regained some source of income, more men (55 per cent) than women (40 per cent) are back to work. The situation is more worrisome for workers over 40 years of age, relatively few of whom have recovered their source of income.

Job recovery varies by sector, the most difficult of which are agriculture and trade. Half of those who work in the fisheries have gone back to work. The main reason for not working is lack of assets and materials to work. Eighty eight per cent identified equipment, loans and grants (in kind or cash) as most critical to their recovery. Surprisingly only fifteen per cent expressed the need for training, yet, this still implies an approximate number of 30,000 women and men. If the aim is to build back better, and following the existing levels of poverty in the districts concerned, training will be needed for higher numbers even.

Thirty six per cent of respondents are willing to do temporary paid manual labour known as "cash for work", particularly in Ampara, Jaffna and Batticaloa Districts. More than 70 per cent of those would accept a daily earning of Rs.350 or less, while 86 per cent will accept receiving part of payment in food (especially in camps).

Eighty three per cent of respondents are, or intend to be, self-employed or run their own business. Twenty-one per cent of entrepreneurs tried to get a business loan since the tsunami, while another 23 per cent plan to apply for a loan.

More than 97 per cent of affected households have received from Government, full or partial payment of Rs.5,000 per family per month, plus Rs.375 per person per week. However, as of end May, most only received two payments.

Sixty per cent of respondents feel they lack information about services and entitlements offered. Radio, newspapers and television are the most important channels of information.

Eighty per cent of affected households are in temporary or incomplete shelters (60%) with friends or relatives (21%). The situation is worrisome in the Eastern and Northern areas, especially in Ampara, Jaffna and Batticacoa Districts. Seventy per cent of those living in their own undamaged houses expect they might be relocated.

Eighty per cent say the uncertainty of possible relocation is a major stumbling block for sustainably rebuilding their livelihood.

The ILO is assisting the Government in setting up a coordinating framework that will help ensure quality, relevance and targetting of livelihood recovery assistance, provided by a myriad of organizations.

In order to help regain livelihood, the ILO also started some small scale cash for work projects to repair roads. The project commenced in April and will continue for six months, providing 1,600 workdays. It involves among others Beruwela Pradeshiya Sabha, Kalutara District, West Province who are clearing debris and repairing two roads connected to the A2 National Highway (Colombo-Galle) damaged by the tsunami. Experience from such projects, is being used to direct policy technical advice which the ILO provides to the Government through the RIRP of the Task Force in Rebuilding the Nation (TAFREN). It will be important to move beyond debris clearing and identify other useful community reconstruction work to provide temporary employment for large number of people.

In May the ILO also published a guide entitled: Livelihood and Employment Creation. It provides recommended management and policy options for employment friendly reconstruction in Sri Lanka. The collection of 12 booklets describes activities which will contribute to the promotion of social and economic recovery in livelihoods. Topics covered include: Business development services, Cash for work, Community contracting, Food for work, Labour-based infrastructure projects, Local economic development, Micro finance, Micro and small enterprise promotion, Public employment services, Start and improve your own business, Vocational and skills training, and Women entrepreneurship.

Additionally, the ILO is providing financial support to the Start and Improve Your Business (SIYB) Association to conduct SIYB training to some180 entrepreneurs affected by the tsunami. Partner organizations are in the process of selecting eligible entrepreneur applicants. The five-day training which will be conducted for nine groups will enable participants to draw up a business plan, which they can submit to a bank for loan.

ILO Office in Colombo, 24.06.05