Working in Sri Lanka



Although work doesn't pay as much as it does in Europe, expatriates will still find it attracting to work in Sri Lanka because of the affordable cost of living. On top of the irresistible natural beauty and diverse culture, this South East Asian gem is also considered as one of the fastest developing countries in the world that showed outstanding growth rates during the recent years.

The Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka possesses an economy that was worth an estimate USD 233.637 billion in terms of Purchasing Power Parity or PPP. Historically speaking, Sri Lanka introduced itself in the international marketplace as a plantation based economy that relies on the export of rubber, tea and cinnamon. It is only recently when this nation decided to shift its gears to other key sectors such as clothing and textiles, Information Technology, petroleum refinement, telecommunications and finance. To this day, Sri Lanka continues to count on its export industry and is still a leading partner in trade with the United Kingdom, United States, India, Germany, Belgium and China.

The Local Job Market

Finding a job in Sri Lanka can be daunting but definitely not impossible. With the high unemployment rate among local graduates, the Sri Lankan government has opened its doors to expat workers in the fields of technology, information technology and teaching. Of all the jobs that are currently in high demand, teaching English appears to be the most lucrative career for anyone.

A majority of expats in this country also find career opportunities in the private sector which involves engineering, customer relations, hospitality and tourism. The public sector or the government employs more than 13% of the total labour force which is why it is considered as the largest employer in this country. Another ideal option for expats is to consider volunteer work or to apply at Non-Government Organisations. In Sri Lanka, NGOs usually provide the lodging and food needs of their volunteers. Some organisations also include travel insurance, sightseeing tours, history and culture lessons that can help expats enhance or develop new skills.

Average Salary and Working Hours

Sri Lanka implements a statutory minimum wage whereas no employee can be paid less than the mandatory minimum rate. Employers who will fail to pay the minimum wage are subject to punishment by the Sri Lankan Department of Labour. Currently, the national minimum wage for all workers in every industry or service is LKR 10,000 (USD 155) per month while the average monthly salary is at LKR 86,250 (USD 568).

Workers usually take up a probationary status upon entry in a company (unless regularisation is pre-arranged) with pay ranging from LKR 5,000 - LKR 10,000 while incomes are taxed progressively. Typical working hours in Sri Lankan establishments begin at 9 am and close at 5 pm. Government offices are usually closed on weekends while some private businesses open half days on Saturdays.

Work Culture in Sri Lanka

Tamil and Sinhala are the official languages in Sri Lanka, but the majority of the population uses Sinhala, while English serves as the linking language. Because English is widely spoken, particularly in business circles, expats will most probably find it easy to blend in, especially in international companies where proficiency in this language is an essential requirement for graduate-level positions.

Exchanging business cards is a common practice and is regarded as a way of acknowledging the connection between the person and the information in the card. To hastily stuff a business card away or even write on it is considered highly disrespectful. The European culture also highly influences business practices in Sri Lanka where transactions are normally carried out with a high degree of formality.


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Expat Services in Sri Lanka