Finding paid work – especially for Tamil  youths – is still difficult in Sri Lanka’s former conflict zone in the north even after three years of peace and massive infrastructure projects, experts say, pointing to the region’s anaemic private sector as a main cause.

Although official employment data for the region is unavailable, experts in the area estimate that up to 30 percent of the north’s population is unemployed, as opposed to a national rate of 4 percent. Based on the most recent census in 2001, 28 percent of the country’s population is between the ages of 10-24, and there are some 280,000 youths in the former war zone, according to a 2012 government estimate.

Most people who work in what is known as the Vanni – which includes the districts of Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu plus parts of Jaffna, Vavuniya and Mannar – do so only sporadically, according to a March 2012 report released by the government, UN Children’s Fund and the World Food Programme.

“Daily labour was the most common income generation activity [when the study was conducted], this being the main source of income among 37 percent of the population,” it said.

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