Indian Tamils of Sri Lanka - Labour Practices

Labour Practices

Based on the cultivation of cash crops, it is the dominant sector in the country's economy. It is a major earner of foreign exchange and the largest employer. Cheap labour is one of the essential ingredients of its success. Hence these immigrants were bonded and under paid. In 1921 workers were empowered to break these bonds of indebtedness tying them to the estates. The minimum wages ordinance was extended to plantation labour in 1927 marginally raising the wages that had not changed since the 19th century. This daily wages was 41 Cts. in 1933. Owing to trade union activities it was raised to Rs 17/83 in 1983, Rs 72/24 in 1993 and became Rs 101 in 1998. The wages of female workers was lesser than males but has been equalized since1984. Even though there was an increase in wages, the living wages are not sufficient to meet their day to day needs. The plantations were nationalized under the 1972 land reform law and its 1975 amendment. The state owned plantations are managed by the Sri Lanka Plantation Corporation & Janatha Estate Development Board. The nationalization did not result in any basic change on the plantation sector. The state has been forced to take a greater interest in the health, housing and general well-being of the labourers. Hence estate schools were nationalized and brought into the general educational system with the grant of Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) many schools were built. This helped the slight growth of literacy rates. With the increased unemployment, plantation sector youths looked for other avenues. A considerable number of Indian Tamil girls are employed in garment factories. Some work in the Middle East as housemaids. There is net migration towards urban areas as well as foreign countries. Prior to the commencement of the Sri Lankan civil war many had migrated to the northern province. Now the plantation communities have the Plantation Human Development Trust, developed to protect their rights and ensure adequate facilities are provided such as creches and toilets. Other NGOs work towards the development of the plantation communities such as Shining Life Children's Trust and Hanguranketha Women's Foundation.

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