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Starving Sri Lanka Shortens Work Week to Give People Time to Grow Food

Starving Sri Lanka Shortens Work Week to Give People Time to Grow Food

Farmers plant rice seedlings in a paddy field in Bandaragama, Sri Lanka, on June 5, 2022. As inflation neared 40% last week, the government urged farmers to start planting rice. Photographer: Buddhika Weerasinghe/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Buddhika Weerasinghe/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sri Lanka’s federal government on Monday approved a proposal that would shorten the work week of most public sector staff to four days so that workers will have time to farm their own crops, Reuters reported Tuesday, noting the measure aims to combat Sri Lanka’s worsening food shortages caused by a recent economic crisis.

“Sri Lanka’s Cabinet late on Monday approved a proposal for public sector workers to be given leave every Friday for the next three months, partly because the fuel shortage made commuting difficult and also to encourage them to farm,” Reuters reported on June 14.

“It seems appropriate to grant government officials leave of one working day … to engage in agricultural activities in their backyards or elsewhere as a solution to the food shortage that is expected,” the Sri Lankan government information office said in a statement.

The shortened work week will not apply to public sector employees in “essential” fields, such as health or education, Sri Lanka Cabinet Minister Dinesh Gunawardana said on June 13.

In addition to the four-day work week, Sri Lanka’s federal government approved a program on Monday in which “public servants can apply for five year no pay leave to go abroad for employment opportunities [sic],” Sri Lanka’s Daily Mirror reported on June 14.

“It will not affect their promotions or retirement upon return,” the newspaper said of the work-abroad initiative.

Sri Lanka’s public sector employs roughly one million people, according to Reuters.

The Sri Lankan federal government was forced to give most public sector staff an unplanned day off on June 13 after realizing that worsening power outages and fuel shortages nationwide would make it nearly impossible for the employees to travel to work or conduct business as usual.

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