Dec 03, Colombo: Sri Lanka today called for efforts to introduce standard terms for employment of migrant domestic workers and closed cooperation between the labor sending and receiving countries to ensure their insurance and protection.
Addressing an international dialogue on migrant workers today, Sri Lanka's External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris noted that the efforts to work on standard terms for employment was a vital necessity and its adoption would solve close to 90 percent of the problems faced by workers and that a rights based approach should be an important essential feature in the dialogue.
The two-day Asia - Gulf States Regional Dialogue on Standard Terms of Employment for Migrant Domestic Workers is being held at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel from 3-4 December 2013 with the participation of representatives from around 20 countries.
The Dialogue is sponsored by UNWomen and the Ministry of Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare.
Introducing a unified contract to protect the rights of women migrant domestic workers, a category particularly vulnerable to various forms of discrimination, exploitation and abuse, will be the main focus of the meeting.
Prof. Peiris, addressing the participants at the opening ceremony as Chief Guest highlighted the immense role played by Sri Lankan migrant workers in contributing to the economic growth of receiving states.
He noted that the vibrancy of the Sri Lankan economy was due to the invaluable service that migrant labor played with remittance flows amounting to some US$ 7 billion that surpassed all export earnings from commodities such as garments, tea and rubber.
The Minister underscored the commitment that Sri Lanka placed on working together to find collective solutions to a number of issues and challenges confronting migrant workers and identified four areas to focus on.
In addition to the cooperation to set up a unified contract of employment, Minister Peiris said the sending states need to promote training and upgrading skills for the migrant workers. He noted that Sri Lanka was steadily improving its labor force through residential workshops to diversify.
The third important area, according to the Minister, was the field of insurance and protection of migrant workers.
He said Sri Lanka's role to safeguard and protect migrant workers was evident in Sri Lanka being elected to Chair the Colombo Process for the next two years.
Lastly the Minister noted that blanket bans of migrant labor would not be practical, but that more discussions on movement of labor should be undertaken and the need to focus on special protection and attention to particular segments of the labor force.
Ramanathan Balakrishnan, Deputy Regional Director of UNWomen in Thailand gave opening remarks on the work of UNWomen and Dilan Perera, Minister of Foreign Employment Promotion & Welfare outlined the close cooperation of Sri Lanka with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and International Organization of Migration (IOM) and highlighted the key role that the migrant worker played in the economic development of Sri Lanka.
Over 15 countries from the Asian and Gulf region participate at the meeting. Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Philippines, Pakistan and India will represent labor sending countries and Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar will represent labor receiving Gulf States.
UN Foundation for Women will be represented by members from Thailand, India, Egypt, Bangladesh, Nepal, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. In addition China, Switzerland, Philippines and Lebanon will send resource personnel.