Accepted paper:

Navigating educated youth unemployment in Sri Lanka


Dhana Hughes (Durham University)

Paper short abstract:

The proposed paper is based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted with educated unemployed youth in Sri Lanka. It examines the perspectives and experiences of educated young Sri Lankans as they attempt to 'transition' from education to work in post-war Sri Lanka.

Paper long abstract:

The problem of educated youth unemployment in Sri Lanka has captured political and public attention in recent decades, not least because of the pivotal role played by educated unemployed young people in violent insurrections against the state. The provision of free education post-independence, has led to the rapid growth of an educated and aspirational youth population. However, there remain problems concerning the distribution and quality of education. Moreover, encroaching corruption and political patronage in the state employment sector, along with the failure of the socio-economic and political structures to provide decent employment opportunities on an equitable basis, have led to a disappointing gulf between aspirations and 'lived realities'. For many educated young Sri Lankans from marginalised backgrounds, the 'social goods' associated with 'adulthood', most importantly secure employment, appear to move further from their grasp. This paper examines how young Sri Lankans negotiate their social and political worlds as they attempt to move from education to work. The paper considers how 'youth' is experienced; the meaning attached to education; the navigation of politics in the arenas of education and work; and young people's hopes and aspirations for the future in post-war Sri Lanka.

panel P53
Educated youth in search of enlightenment in South Asia (and beyond)