The Sri Lankan Unemployment Problem Revisited

16 Pages Posted: 4 Sep 2003

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High unemployment in Sri Lanka has been attributed to unrealistic expectations, to queuing for public sector jobs, and to stringent job security regulations. However, the empirical evidence supporting these explanations is weak. This paper analyzes individual records from the 1995 Labor Force Survey, and time series for wages in the formal and informal sectors of the economy. The paper rejects the unrealistic-expectations hypothesis by comparing the impact of education on the actual wages of those who have a job and on the lowest acceptable wages of the unemployed. But it finds substantial rents associated with jobs in the public sector, and in activities protected by high tariffs or covered by job security regulations. A time-series analysis of the impact of unemployment on wage increases across sectors suggests that many among the unemployed are waiting for "good" job openings, but are not interested in readily available "bad" jobs.

Suggested Citation

Rama, Martin, The Sri Lankan Unemployment Problem Revisited. Review of Development Economics, Vol. 7, pp. 510-525, August 2003. Available at SSRN:

Martin Rama (Contact Author)

World Bank ( email )

1818 H. Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20433
United States

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