Lihini Ratwatte


In Sri Lanka, women’s labor force participation has never exceeded 35% in over three decades. As of 2022, the country was ranked 110 out of 146 countries in the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index. The gaps in women’s participation in the formal economy alongside women’s limited political empowerment are two leading causes for the country to be lagging in such global gender equality indicators. At a large cost to the economy, the existence of archaic gender norms that promulgate women’s unpaid care work often exclude women from the formal labor force. This paper dissects the socio-economic and socio-political factors that lead to the invisibility of women in Sri Lanka’s economy, while seeking to understand how such underlying causes have been aggravated within the precarity of the post-pandemic context. It is important, now more than ever, to recognize the invisibility of women in Sri Lanka’s formal economy, while bringing about a transformative vision with a multi-pronged approach to address existing gaps and challenges. With reference to key principles of feminist economics, including the theoretical foundations of Claudia Goldin, Nancy Folbre, and Diane Elson, among others, the paper will make a case for inclusivity and intersectionality in policy recommendations aimed at encouraging women’s entry, active engagement, contribution, and retention in Sri Lanka’s economy. The paper reaches a conclusion that when women lead, participate, and benefit equally in all aspects of life, societies and economies will thrive, thereby contributing to sustainable development and inclusive economic growth.

Author Biography

Lihini Ratwatte is a gender and development specialist experienced in research, policy analysis, and advocacy. She holds a BA in International Studies, Communications, and Gender Studies from Monash University, and a MA in Global Diplomacy with specializations in Negotiation, Global Public Policy, Strategic Studies, and International Economics from SOAS, University of London. Drawing from her academic and professional expertise, Ms. Ratwatte’s research focuses on the nexus of gender, development, peacebuilding, and security in Sri Lanka and the broader Asia-Pacific region. Email id: Lihini.Ratwatte@gmail.com