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The Masonry Labor Market System

Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu Districts, Northern Province
May, 2012

More than three decades of armed conflict between the Sri Lankan Armed Forces and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam led to a steady deterioration of the food security situation along with social and economic infrastructure in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka. Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu are two districts in the north that were severely affected in the final phase of the war, from January to May 2009. In mid-2009, resettlement programs began returning those displaced in the war to their home communities in Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu. Returnees have had access to basic relief in terms of shelter material, food and water and sanitation facilities, in order to re-start their lives and livelihoods, though poverty levels in these areas remain high.

This market analysis seeks to understand how well the current masonry market is functioning relative to the demand for labor, and whether there are opportunities to promote job creation in the sector. The masonry labor market was selected based on its importance as one of the major income markets for the local community. The study adapted the standard EMMA approach to the post-war resettlement context of northern Sri Lanka and closely followed the EMMA 10-step process, including a focus on key critical market systems and a combined gap, market and response analysis. The analysis focuses on housing construction due to the relative ease of quantifying demand for housing led by government and aid agency programs.

This report finds that the masonry market is functioning well. Due to insufficient supply of masons from Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu, a large number of masons and masonry laborers have arrived from outside to fill the demand for workers. This outside presence and the anticipated large demand in non-housing construction suggests that there are ample opportunities for local workers to engage in the masonry market system as both unskilled and skilled workers. On the other hand, the gap between demand and availability of skilled masons remains large. The supply of masonry laborers is growing and can provide sufficient workers to meet the demand for housing construction in the long term, but it is not sufficient to meet the expected demand in the next 1-2 years. This gap in the labor force is partly due to the extensive training period (around one year) and because interest in training courses is lacking.

This assessment concludes with two main recommendations, namely to support vocational training service providers to train unemployed youths in masonry, and to link these institutions with chief masons for advanced on-the-job training opportunities. Such interventions will speed the engagement of local unemployed workers in the masonry sector and benefit those resettled families in need of homes and public buildings.

Report authors: 
Gregory Matthews, Gemuni Wijesena, S. Fawzardeen, T. Senthees, P. Perinpakumar
Download Report (665.86 KB pdf)