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Serving Sri Lanka

This web log is a news and views blog. The primary aim is to provide an avenue for the expression and collection of ideas on sustainable, fair, and just, grassroot level development. Some of the topics that the blog will specifically address are: poverty reduction, rural development, educational issues, social empowerment, post-Tsunami relief and reconstruction, livelihood development, environmental conservation and bio-diversity. 

Saturday, February 12, 2005

ILO survey reveals 276,000 jobs, livelihoods lost to Tsunami

This article was on ISLAND (02/11/05) and was sent in by Ananda:

A rapid assessment survey of the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO), which is updating information on a daily basis, reveals that jobs and livelihoods lost to the Tsunami in Sri Lanka currently stands at around 276,000. This is still a very large figure, which unfortunately is unlikely to fall more. Concerted efforts will be required to address this loss of employment, and the ILO and World Food Programme have therefore conducted a survey to find out more about the damage the tsunami has done to people’s livelihoods in the directly affected areas, and identify areas in which support will be required. Earlier, in the immediate aftermath after the Tsunami in January, based on general and incomplete situation reports, ILO made a preliminary estimate that total jobs and livelihood losses due to the tsunami numbered about 400,000, which needs to be corrected, the ILO said.

Around mid-January, some hundred interviewers swarmed out all over the country to interview more than 1,600 affected households in 8 of the most affected districts. Displaced households, in camps or elsewhere, were included. Most of the interviewers were volunteers from the International Association of Students of Economics, Commerce and Management. The damage to houses has been widely reported. The survey confirmed that nearly all affected have suffered damage or lost their houses. In addition, 80 percent of the affected lost their main source of income. Most jobs were lost in the fisheries sector, with nearly none of the households now still engaged in fishing. Also badly affected were micro and small businesses, like shops, small restaurants, food processing, and handicrafts. Much employment was lost in tourism and agriculture as well.

Nine out of ten households that had productive assets saw them destroyed or damaged by the tsunami, and have therefore lost or reduced their capacity to generate an income. This includes assets like buildings, equipment, stocks, and livestock. This will have a longer-term effect on people’s incomes, as many assets are not easily replaced. Not surprisingly, then, half of the households covered were dependent on public and private aid, with only slightly more relying on government assistance than on private charity. A large majority of the households had already received food, medicine and clothing, but few had received cash.

Many people have reported on a new fear of the sea, and have wondered whether those who made their living on or near to it will return to their previous occupation. The survey found that in fact 20 percent of households expect to earn an income in a different way in the future. This could mean that thousands abandon their traditional way of life, most of all among fisher folk. A similar percentage plans to move to another area in order to build a new life. Such plans could be the result of the search for a new source of income, but could also be related to the expectation that households will not be allowed to resettle in close proximity to the shore. When asked about their personal plans, only two-thirds of those interviewed were able to say how they expect to earn an income in the near future, reflecting the shock and confusion caused by the disaster. Of those who did know, the large majority (79 percent) planned to be self-employed or in business. Many of these were women, including those who have lost their husbands and have now become their household’s breadwinner. Nearly all of those who plan to be self-employed or in business lack the funds for the necessary investments. Overall, a significant share of those who were affected (14 percent) do not have the skills necessary for the work they plan to do.

Ms. Claudia Coenjaerts, ILO Area Office Director in Colombo said ``The information obtained through this rapid assessment survey is of key importance to the planning of a response to the destruction of people’s livelihoods caused by the tsunami. Many of those have lost part of their family, and face a situation of displacement and dependency. We have to make sure that that they are provided with urgently needed income support while at the same time advancing them out of dependency and poverty as rapidly as possible. We know that they prefer to work rather than continuing to rely on income support. The labour intensive rehabilitation of community and public infrastructure and the environment, is one way of creating jobs immediately. But action on reviving local economies should also not be delayed. Many people are ready for that. The survey shows that most will need small loans to be able to become self-employed or start a business. Some, whose situation is particularly precarious, such as widows who have become the main breadwinner, may need small grants. But these people will also need other support, such as business training and assistance in developing a business plan. Clearly there is also a need for skill training, given that many plan to change the way they earn an income. And many may need guidance and counselling to find an answer to the question what next". The ILO is using the findings of the survey in its support to the Government’s planning of its response to the loss of livelihoods. The information will also be used in the second phase of the UN and donor’s post-tsunami needs assessment.

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