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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The growth and variations of rural non-farm activities in Sri Lanka since independence Hasbullah, Shahul Hameed


The encouragement of rural non-farm activities (RNA), as part of a general development programme, is an alternative strategy for progress in Less Developed Countries (LDCs). A shift of labour from low productive agricultural employment to non-agricultural employment in the rural areas of LDCs could enhance incomes in those countries. This thesis focuses on Sri Lanka as an example of a Less Developed Country and analyses the growth pattern of RNA from Sri Lanka's independence in 1948 to the present day. The thesis poses several questions. Why were employment changes slow during the last four decades? Why were there variations in the regional growth of RNA? What factors contributed to the patterns of spatial distribution and regional growth in RNA? This thesis proposes a conceptual scheme of RNA growth and tests several hypotheses to answer these questions. Data used in this thesis were derived from three levels of magnitude: macro (national), meso (regional), and micro (village). The macro and meso level information were obtained from secondary sources. The micro level (information came from a field survey conducted in Sri Lanka during 1986 and 1987. The data were analysed using the Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS:X) at the University of British Columbia. The thesis finds that the growth of RNA varies regionally and is concentrated in two contrasting occupational categories. The first category is characterized by low levels of productivity, skills and income. The second category is often government-related and employs persons with higher status and education. Regionally significant growth in both types was seen in fringe areas of the city of Colombo and in areas of state investment for agricultural development. RNA growth was largely due to the changes in the age structure of the population. Population grew rapidly in 1950s and 1960s which led to rapid labour force growth in 1970s. Slow structural change and poor performance of the economy retarded the expansion of employment opportunities leading to open unemployment, under-employment and landlessness. Household employment strategies varied in the rural areas. The increased labour force among the low income households encouraged part-time, seasonal and low paying RNA. The middle and upper income groups using educational facilities provided by the state in the rural areas qualified for government related occupations. By providing social and economic welfare benefits for the rural people, by expanding the state sector employment opportunities and by encouraging migration of labour to agricultural development areas, the post-independence Sri Lankan governments influenced the employment situation and the growth of RNA. Direct government intervention for the creation of RNA has not always had the desired effect because RNA expansion is also influenced by social, ethnic and political considerations which often lead to unexpected consequences. Therefore, conclusions derived from the analysis of Sri Lanka's RNA growth alone may not be adequate to develop policy prescriptions for the implementation in other LDCs.

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