Economic sectors at risk from departures of 14,000 professionals By Nadia Fazlulhaq

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The growing exodus of professionals and skilled workers to foreign countries will threaten the quality of services provided to the public, experts warn.

Statistics reveal that the country’s heading towards a major brain drain with 14,307 professionals leaving the country last year compared with 2,957 professionals in 2020 and 8,373 in 2021.

According to the Bureau of Foreign Employment, the majority of the professionals were between 30 years and 39 years of age.

Last year also saw 8,130 middle level employees leaving the country. Over 12,000 clerical staff have left, while only 2,400 left in 2020.

In 2022, 92,836 skilled workers left the country compared with the 40,000 in 2021. A majority of them were between 25 years and 44 years of age.

The Association of Medical Specialists said the Government should immediately intervene to retain young specialists, while increasing the retirement age of consultants.

The association’s media secretary Dr. Asoka Gunaratne said out of the trained 30 consultant emergency physicians, 20 have left the country.

“The only paediatric radiology specialist in the country has emigrated. About 70-80% who go for consultant training to the UK and Australia do not return,” he said.

He said the Government’s decision to raise the retirement age of specialist consultant doctors to 63 years is needed at a time when huge numbers of young specialists are leaving the country.

“If they (Government) fails to increase the age limit, about 600 consultants will retire. The country is already short of about 2,000 consultants,” he said.

Dr. Gunaratne said lack of good accommodation, limited private practice opportunities and no school facilities for children, are causing frustration among young specialists serving in rural hospitals.

Prof. Bharana Jayawardena, president of the Federation of Teachers’ Associations said universities are at risk of losing 1st or 2nd uppers in universities as probationary lecturers.

“People are reluctant to sign sureties for PhD scholarship students as they doubt whether the students will return to the country. Even those who return stay for 2-3 years and consider emigration,” he said.

He said lecturers of medical faculties in universities away from Colombo are grabbing every opportunity to emigrate.

“There are a number of vacancies in vet, agriculture faculties as well, that could have an impact on the country’s agriculture, livestock sectors in the coming years,” Prof. Jayawardena said.

He said the government should increase investment in higher education, such as research grants for universities, provide flexible transfers and facilitate school admission for their children.

At a recent Committee of Public Account (COPA) meeting in Parliament, Government Analyst Deepika Seneviratne highlighted that there are 25 vacancies because scientific officers have gone overseas, triggering delays in reports. She said contract staff have to be hired to complete accumulated reports.

General secretary of Ceylon Bank Employees Union Ranjan Senanayake said over 1,000 employees in both the private and state bank sector have left the country.

“Those emigrating already have 10-15 years experience. Many are not seeing a future for their children here,” he said.

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Disclaimer: Economic sectors at risk from departures of 14,000 professionals By Nadia Fazlulhaq - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect point-of-view

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