Demographic Dividend: How much time is left for Sri Lanka?
by admin
December 18, 2015

The year 1992 marked something significant in Sri Lanka. For the first time that year, our working age population began to outnumber those who are statistically considered as outside the work force; that’s those under 15 years and those over 60 years.




What’s great about that?

Well, it meant that we had a larger labour force. More human power to boost our economy and development!

Unfortunately for Sri Lanka, we couldn’t reap the full benefits of this ‘demographic dividend’. A great deal of our funds and human resources were consumed by the war that ended only in 2009.

Now, with the war behind us, we can focus on making the best of the demographic dividend. However, we are running out of time.

According to some demographers, in about one year from now, our work force will start shrinking as the ageing population is growing rapidly and fertility remains low. As this trend continues, Sri Lanka will once again have a larger dependent population, they say.

But not everyone sees doom and gloom. Other demographers say we still have more time. They predict that this shift in the population dimension will only begin to occur in 2037. That leaves us with another 21 years to activity work on making the most of the demographic dividend.


How can we make the most of our demographic dividend?

This is an important policy issue that UNFPA is promoting. On 16 December 2015, UNFPA Sri Lanka organized the first discussion that brought three different generations together to determine the areas we need to work on.

Themed as “Generation to Generation for OUR Sri Lanka”, this was the first in a series of dialogues meant to highlight the shifting population dimensions within Sri Lanka’s society.

Panel discussion that brought three generations together to discuss maximizing demographic dividend

The event served as an open forum for inter-generational opinion leaders to come together to voice their opinions, concerns and suggestions which can be used as a baseline for recommendations to steer Sri Lanka’s future policy directions.

Six notable Sri Lankans, who have been contributing to the country’s development, were brought together to share their expertise. They were:

  • Professor Mohan Munasinghe, economist and Chairman, Munasinghe Institute of Development;
  • Aaranya Rajasingam, Executive Director – Programme at Viluthu Centre for Human Resource Development
  • Travis Gomez, economist and Vice President at Frontier Research (Pvt) Ltd;
  • Naushalya Rajapaksha, lawyer and the official youth delegate from Sri Lanka to the United Nations General Assembly
  • Shyama Salgado, National Programme Coordinator of International Labour Organisation (ILO); and
  • Samantha Liyanawaduge, Executive Director of HelpAge Sri Lanka

Over the next few blogposts, Kiyanna will share summaries of what each speaker said.

The forum organized by UNFPA Sri Lanka and was open to the public. There was healthy debate between the participants and speakers. If you wish to share your thoughts, or if you disagree with any of the speakers, please comment on this blog.

After all, we need to keep this conversation going to come up with realistic plans for the next 21 years.