Publication Date

2009

Abstract

[Excerpt] Howe and Strauss (2007) propound the theory that there is a clear nexus between the significant events youth face and their attitudes in later life. This is relevant in looking at the evolution of industrial relations, especially in Sri Lanka. One could say that the historical context of Sri Lanka has played a major role in the current behaviour of management and labour—from the nationalist revival in 1956 and the culture change which gripped the country until the insurgency of 1971 which can be identified as the coming to a head of the frustrations created in relation to emancipated, educated youth who had no prospects of proper employment. The language policy introduced under the cultural revolution created a hostile divide between the English-speaking managers, who in colonial times and for several decades thereafter came from elite schools, and the ‘swabasha’1 educated workers. Since the language of management and business transactions continued to be English, it was difficult for those receiving education in the local languages to claim higher positions in the private sector although often they were better technically qualified, at least on paper, than the English- peaking candidates selected. With educated youth finding that they could not access the higher echelons without English the obvious reaction was to resent the language as well as the system which used it. The policy in the government was to use the swabasha for official transactions and this led to graduates educated by local universities moving mostly into public sector management positions, seldom securing employment in the private sector. The tension created by Sinhala-educated youth not having adequate access to jobs compatible with their education led to the insurrection in 1971. The youth of that era are now mature citizens and legislators and are therefore anxious to give fair opportunity to youth coming into the labour market by helping them acquire language skills needed for employment.

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