Anushka Wijesinha (who blogs here), a Research Economist at the Institute of Policy Studies, sent us these incredible photos and video of the chaos in Colombo today when thousands of Korean job seekers appeared for Korean exam applications at the Police Park down Havelock Road. Mainstream media reports a figure of 10,000, which going by the video and photos appear to be mostly young men.

In a speech by Dr. Anura Ekanayake, outgoing CCC chairman and IPS Board member, he noted that of the 4.5% unemployment rate overall in Sri Lanka, 18.1% of youth (age 15-24) are unemployed and within this around 10.7% of those qualified with A/Ls are unemployed.

Anushka observed that,

  • Many were queuing from 5pm yesterday, which means they had spent the night on the pavements.
  • By the time the centre closed at 11.15am (as was informed by the officials there to those gathered 3,500 applicants had been registered. There was at least 1,000 more in the queue at that point, who were turned away.
  • Many had gone to the Kalutara centre and had been unsuccessful, and had came to to the Police Park centre today
  • IPS did a snap survey of the profile of the applicants seeking work in Korea and the results will be published along with an article soon, on the blog Sample of around 50 youth.
  • Preliminary results: majority were from Colombo, Kalutara, Gampaha, Matara, Galle and Hambantota districts (Emphasis ours)
  • Majority of those interviewed in the snap survey had A/L as their highest qualification, with few even having degrees
  • Yet, the majority stated they were seeking ‘any type of work’ or ‘manual labour’, while a minority were seeking specific occupations.
  • The remaining crowd of youth were informed that they can try again at 28 other centres across the country

The route Anushka took down Havelock Road is plotted below, around 1.5km.

View Job applicants in a larger map

All photos above and the video by Anushka Wijesinha. More photos on Daily Mirror’s website.

Live updates from Anushka below.

At thummula, police park, no less than 2,500 youth queuing up for Korean job exams. Lot of pushing/shoving. Queue is close to 1km longless than a minute ago via txt Favorite Retweet Reply

Queue starts at vajira rd junction, goes right thru upto Thummulla junction, plus more along Lauries roadless than a minute ago via txt Favorite Retweet Reply

While overall unemployment in Sri Lanka maybe just 4.5%, youth unemployment is a staggering 18.1%less than a minute ago via txt Favorite Retweet Reply

At police park (thummulla) Korean job recruitment centre. Police informs that the centre is nw closed, 3,500 applicants. Crowd not happyless than a minute ago via txt Favorite Retweet Reply

Police just closed road from thummulla to thimbirigasyaya direction, anticipating a bit of unrest as the centre closes, queue turned awayless than a minute ago via txt Favorite Retweet Reply

Korea job seekers still queuing on havelock rd, major traffic jam. As long as this morning. Some seated atop trees.less than a minute ago via txt Favorite Retweet Reply

This despite foreign employment ministry request for job seekers to not all come to Colombo but go to any of the 29 other centres islandwideless than a minute ago via txt Favorite Retweet Reply

  • 4 percent unemployment sounds quite good in comparison with countries like USA where it is hitting 10 percent.

    • Sunil

      Yes, and both the US and Sri Lanka have the same standard of living right? Being unemployed in Sri Lanka has a totally different meaning from being unemployed in the US

  • Ragurajahpillai

    Rajapaksa came to power in 2005, when there was a peace with the Tamils. If Rajapaksa did not spent zillions, and zillions of the Sri Lanka people money on the war , he would’ve use this money to provide the jobs for milions and millions Sri Lankans.

    • Sunk

      Really, Raguraja! Were you in Mars in 2005?

  • Can the author confirm if Sri Lanka adopts the standard international definition of unemployment? If not what is the definition for unemployment in Sri Lanka? Do we consider 15 years as the lower age limit for the work force?

    Thank you

  • Sad but Sane

    LTTE, Tamil Diaspora and Western Governments are the reasons for this chaos I, the patriot proudly declare!!

    • Luxman Siriwardena

      Hey Anushka, this queuing for Koreean jobs or US visa lottery or jobs in Japan does not indicate the level of youth unemployment. It only indicates the disparity of relative wages between two countries at a given stage of economic development. If World Bank or ADB positions are freely available how many well employed Sri Lanka researchers or academics will resist the temptation to apply?

  • Sagara nanayakkara

    I do not believe that figure (4.5%) of unemployment rate in SL. A country like Australia also has about the same rate of unemployment which is considered as total employment or close to it. At this kind of unemployment rate, you may not expect people wondering in streets during the working hours as you see in SL. These figures are just fabrications of Central Bank of SL.

  • muzammil

    Srilanka is fast becoming an employment agency rather than agricultural
    or industrial.We are talking about dignity,honour,heritage and cultural
    pride and a whole lots of other self glorification while in real truth
    ready to sell ourselves to any price to anyone for anything.Is there
    any single leader to look at this trend differently? When is this human export going to stop?Are srilnkan mothers giving birht to children to live seperated and not as a family.What a tragedy.

  • georgethebushpig

    What we seem to be forgetting is that we still have 15% below the poverty line (less than US$1.50 a day); that’s 3 million people!

    I also have a hard time believing that there is only 4.5% unemployment in Sri Lanka. On the other hand, given the massive recruitment drive by the forces over the last few years I guess we found a way to address our unemployment problem! I guess this poses a real barrier to demilitarization.

    I wonder what the under-employed rate is? You know, graduates etc. working in menial jobs.

    • Sagara nanayakkara

      You are right georgethebushpig! That’s why SL government uses security forces for other civil duties at the moment. Waste management in Colombo seems to be successful after the Ministry of Defence has taken control of it.

  • The full report by the IPS, with the results from the snap survey referred to in this post is now available on our blog

    A pdf of the special report is available via Scribd here –