June 15, 2008 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s tea estate community, which plucked the leaf that kept the economy afloat for more than a century, has not reaped the benefits of the trade, says a new study on the link between trade and poverty. “The estate sector in Sri Lanka is a prime example of trade failing to translate into poverty reduction,” says the study by researchers at the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS).
Tea for long was the island’s top export commodity and even now is one of the main foreign exchange earners.
But poverty levels on estates have persistently been higher than the national average and more alarmingly, increased in recent years.
“The tea industry employs a large number of poor people, but in this case employment alone has failed to alleviate poverty since workers have not been substantially empowered with skills,” says the study.
The very low skilled work yields insufficient wages to pull workers out of poverty, according to the study which was presented at a recent international conference on the trade-poverty nexus in South Asia.
“Hence, the estate sector remains the poorest sector in Sri Lanka, despite being a predominantly trade oriented sector.”