The poverty headcount in the estates increased between 1990-91 and 2002 and is now 7 percentage points higher than the national average with the poverty in the estates being one of "stagnation"
The estate sector comprising 5% of the country’s population poses a significant challenge to Sri Lanka’s poverty reduction with “mainstreaming” the way out, the World Bank stated recently.
The estate population represents the mot significant challenge to poverty reduction in the country, the World Bank said recently in releasing its report on Sri Lanka’s poverty assessment.
The poverty headcount in the estates increased between 1990-91 and 2002 and is now 7 percentage points higher than the national average with the poverty in the estates being one of “stagnation”.
The report also revealed some crude facts that stated the “higher poverty among estate households is associated with the remoteness or lack of useable year-round roads linking the estate to the nearest town.”
It noted that the long term solution to poverty in the estates “clearly lies in mainstreaming the sector.”
The estate sector was reportedly posing the highest incidence of poverty with a headcount of 30% in 2002 which was significantly above the 1990-91 levels.
In addition it was pointed out that consumption in the estates has also become more highly concentrated in a narrow interval around the poverty line in contrast to the country, the concentration in estates has increased between 1990-91 and 2002.
The World Bank highlights the need for ensuring the labour force living within the commercial property to have improved movement to and from the towns.
The report points out that severing this link, perhaps by providing and rights to long term residents, would relieve management of welfare responsibility toward resident and the obligation of residents to provide labour to the estate.
This would therefore assist in changing the current parameters of the employer-employee relationships, it was asserted.
With more than 40% in the estate households relying solely on estate wages for earned income, but it was observed that while wage employment outside the estates was not associated with significantly higher welfare or earnings, households that receive income from enterprise tend to fare better.
Further it was stated that although today, estate residents were able to earn most of their income in wage employment on a plantation, two decades back, the labour force in the plantations declined by more than 50%, from a 542,000 workers in 1980 to an estimated current figure of less than 269,000.
While a majority of households had asserted there was an improvement in their household conditions in the last 15 years, this was despite the overall deterioration in the condition of the estates.
With the estate housing stock consisting of single houses, attached houses and annexes, line rooms and row house, and shaties, the proportion of line rooms is still much higher than the country average. In addition, a sustained effort is being required to close the gap between living conditions in the estates and other sectors.
While nearly 30% of the population in the estate sector is poor only 13% of the households interview had reported receiving cash transfers from government welfare programmes, the bank’s report stated.
Other factors playing a crucial role in the estate sector posting the highest incidence of poverty is due to the multidimensional nature.
As such it was reported that both male and female literacy rates in 2003-04 are 6 and 16% points lower than the rural averages, respectively. 2003-04 has posted a literacy rate of 81.3% overall compared to the rural sector posting a higher literacy rate at 92.8%.