16 Nov, Colombo: The World Bank on Thursday urged Sri Lanka to encourage more women to work as this would not only help Sri Lanka realize its economic potential but would build on its several achievements.

In a report titled “Getting to Work — Unlocking Women’s Potential in Sri Lanka’s Labor Force” the World Bank noted that despite steady economic growth, the number of women participating in Sri Lanka’s workforce had declined to 36 percent in 2016 from 41 percent in 2010.

Sri Lankan women, especially younger ones, do not sufficiently acquire marketable skills, face higher unemployment rates, and receive lower wages than men, the report said.

“Removing barriers to women’s paid work will encourage more Sri Lankan women to participate in the workforce,” the Wold Bank said.

“Getting women to work is not just about supporting human rights, it’s about smart economics,” said Idah Pswarayi-Riddihough, the World Bank Country Director for Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

“Lifting the barriers to women’s participation in the workforce will not only help Sri Lanka realize its economic potential and build on its several achievements, it will also increase the equitable sharing of the development benefits,” she added.

The report further said once women were at work, increasing the availability of high-quality childcare services, improving access to part-time work and maternity leave, and addressing socio-physical constraints on women’s mobility through safe transportation and telecommuting were essential to help them remain in the workforce.

Workplaces must embrace gender equity in labor legislation and non-discriminatory policies, including zero tolerance for sexual harassment.

By undertaking ethical branding initiatives and women-centered training programs, the private sector could help expand women’s share of employment and firm ownership in emerging industries, the World Bank said. Xinhua