Definition of Youth

The national youth policy (2014) of Sri Lanka defines youth as between 15-29 years.


Marriageable Age

  • Opposite Sex
  • Same Sex
  • Without parental consent
  • with parental consent
  • Male
  • 18
  • --
  • XX

Candidacy Age

Criminal Responsibility

Minimum Age
Children between the ages of 8 and 12 who have not attained sufficient maturity of understanding shall not be prosecuted. Source:  Penal Code

Majority Age


Voting Age


Situation of Young People

Literacy Rates

Both sexes (15-24) %
  • 98.36% Male (15-24) %
  • 99.17% Female (15-24) %

Net Enrolment Rate

Secondary School
Both sexes %
  • 83.37%Male %
  • 87.50% Female %

Situation of Young People

Prevalence of HIV

Male (15-24) %
Female (15-24) %

Tobacco Use

Consumed any smokeless or smoking tobacco product at least once 30 days prior to the survey.
Both sexes (13-15) %
  • 12.40% Male (13-15) %
  • 5.80% Female (13-15) %
  • Year: 2010
  • Source: WHO

Policy & Legislation

Is there a national youth policy?
Sri Lanka launched a new youth policy in 2014 after a long and partly disputed process.

The national youth policy (2014) aims “to develop the full potential of young people to enable their active participation in national development for a just and equitable society.” The policy focuses on nine areas for policy intervention: Education; Skills development and vocational training; Youth employment; Civics & citizenship; Youth work; Health & well-being; Social exclusion & discrimination; Peace & reconciliation; Arts, recreation, sports & leisure.   A coalition of youth organisations, in an open letter to the Minister on 6 July 2007, were highly critical of the 2007 draft with claims of plagiarism, tokenism and unreflective content.   As a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, Sri Lanka is a signatory of The Commonwealth Plan of Action for Youth Empowerment (PAYE) 2006-2015.

Public Institutions

Is there a governmental authority
(ministry, department or office) that is primarily responsible for youth?
The Youth Development Division within the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Skill Development is responsible for youth affairs and is the “main institution” responsible for implementing the national youth policy (2014). An inter-ministerial ‘Presidential Youth Development Commission’ is established in the national youth policy (2014) to monitor and evaluate the implementation of the policy.   The Youth Development Division is also responsible for policies relating to youth development, including careers guidance, cultural programmes, and international cooperation.

Youth and Representation

Does the country have a national youth organisation / association (council, platform, body)?
The National Youth Services Council (NYSC), known as Sri Lanka Youth, acts as the focal point for youth clubs and organisations. It delivers extensive programmes including youth awards, education, sports, media, international youth affairs, skills and training. It has close links to government ministries and receives government funding. The NYSC organised the World Conference on Youth in 2014 and is a member of the Commonwealth Youth Council. The NYSC has a large organisational structure, and it is unclear what leadership role young people have.

Budget & Spending

What is the budget allocated to the governmental authority (ministry, department or office) that is primarily responsible for youth and/or youth programming?
LKR 11.2 billion
USD 85.7 million
According to the Budget Estimates 2014, the total estimate for the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Skill Development is LKR 11.2 billion (USD 85.7 million). The National Youth Services Council is allocated LKR 692 million (USD 5.2 million). According to the World Bank, Sri Lanka spent 12.87% of its government expenditure and 2.00% of its GDP on education provision in 2011.
Total Expenditure on Education as a Percentage of Government Spending and GDP

  • % of GDP
  • % of gov. expenditure

Source: World Bank
Gaps indicate missing data from the original data source. (Accessed August 2013).

Additional Background

The Sri Lanka Profile by BBC News provides background information on the civil war and alleged human rights abuses:
The growth of assertive Sinhala nationalism after independence fanned the flames of ethnic division, and civil war erupted in the 1980s against Tamils pressing for self-rule.
Most of the fighting took place in the north. But the conflict also penetrated the heart of Sri Lankan society, with Tamil Tiger rebels carrying out devastating suicide bombings in the capital Colombo in the 1990s.
The violence killed more than 70,000 people, damaged the economy and harmed tourism in one of South Asia's potentially most prosperous societies.
International concern was raised about the fate of civilians caught up in the conflict zone during the final stages of the war, the confinement of some 250,000 Tamil refugees to camps for months afterwards, and allegations that the government had ordered the execution of captured or surrendering rebels.
A UN report published in 2011 said both sides in the conflict committed war crimes against civilians. The Sri Lankan government rejected this and later reports as biased.
In September 2013 the main Tamil opposition party won a convincing victory in elections to a devolved provincial council in the north, which was set up after constitutional talks with the government. Commonwealth observers reported army intimidation of voters.
The national youth policy (2014) provides a situational analysis of life of youth people in Sri Lanka: Youth demographics
It is estimated that the youth population in Sri Lanka is about 4.4 million or 23% of the total population based on 20121statistics. The youth population by sex indicates that there is an almost equal distribution of 50.23% for males and 49.76% for females.
An area of serious concern in education and training is the quality and outputs of education. Enrolment per se is not a satisfactory indicator of the quality of education and training. There are significant regional disparities in educational achievements with sharp difference be- tween the Western Province and other provinces particularly conflict-affected provinces.
Youth unemployment
Youth unemployment remains a critical issue for policy makers, youth and their families in Sri Lanka. Unemployment rates in the age group 15-19 years was 20% in 2010 and in the 20-24 age group, 19%. Female unemployment in this age group is also higher than male unemployment.
One of the greatest grievances for youth with regard to the employment issue is that political and social influence is the biggest leverage for obtaining employment. This is particularly so in the public sector but not completely absent in the private sector either. Even in the private sector, belonging to the ‘proper’ social networks, be- comes a key factor in obtaining employment. For these reasons many young people are of the opinion that merit is not as important as having the right connections when it comes to obtaining employment. Instances of irregularity in relation to competitive examination results and recruitment procedures were reported during consultations have consequences beyond the employment sector eroding confidence in public institutions and governance systems.
Using political and social connections in everyday life – for accessing even basic services – has become normalized to a great extent. These circles of patronage are activated at all levels of society. However, this means, that those who for various reasons are unable to access these connections or who are left out of the circles of patronage face exclusion and marginalization seriously affecting even their most basic rights. While young people resent this situation, there appears to be minimal efforts by them to challenge such practices.