The failure by the Department of Registration of Persons to issue National Identity Cards (NICs) to the majority of plantation workers, even two decades after they were given citizenship rights in the early eighties, has become a major cause for poverty in the estate sector, a World Bank Economist said.
Ambar Narayan, the World Bank’s Senior Economist on Poverty Reduction and Economic Management for the South Asian Region, told a press conference on Tuesday,
organized by the World Bank Institute and the Sri Lanka Press Council, that, a recent survey in the plantation sector revealed that 85 per cent of plantation workers above 25 years of age haven’t been issued NICs by the government.
The survey had also revealed that 35 per cent of estate youth between 16 and 19 years age did not possess NICs.
Narayan said that due to the security situation in the country, the NIC has become a crucial factor in the economic success of a plantation worker as it is crucial for them to access tertiary and vocational education and opt for lucrative jobs outside the plantations including overseas employment.
"Not having an NIC restricts the mobility of plantation youth, who prefer to get even a low paid outside job than getting employed on the estate because of the stigma attached to the plantation worker," Narayan said.
He said that the job opportunities in the plantation sector were shrinking after privatization as the total number of plantation workers had been reduced from the pre-privatization figure of 400,000 to about 225,000.
The research had also shown that dependency in plantation families was on the verge of increasing as working parents have to feed their grownup but jobless children as well as the elderly and invalid.
The survey also indicated that 14 per cent of children in the plantation sector don’t go to schools and 46 per cent of that figure are suffering from malnutrition.
It also revealed that after privatization, the general welfare activities in the sector had declined and plantation companies had failed to improve the living conditions of the workers contrary to expectations that privatization of estates would make their lives better.