The government’s plan of recruiting youth at dzong construction sites, as envisaged, would solve two problems simultaneously. While ensuring workers in the form of young unemployed people, it will also help solve the labour shortage problem.
There is no dearth of work going by the plan. We have many dzongs that are being renovated or constructed. Drugyal Dzong’s construction will start immediately. Some are already delayed and we need a continuous supply of workers to finish them on time. Cost of construction escalates every month and a delay of one month could cost the government dear.
We also have a group of frustrated young people because the government cannot create avenues for them. They want jobs and are getting restless. The idea is good and we should not let it die. More importantly, we should think long term so that the available human resources are utilized.
But it is easier said than done. Therefore, there is the need to brainstorm ideas to make this initiative successful.
We know the challenges. Our youth are not attracted to manual or blue-collar jobs. The wages are not attractive and working conditions, left on their own, will be pathetic, as they have to manage with the meagre daily wage.
The construction sector should be made attractive so that youth look for jobs there. To be fair, not all youth look down on manual jobs. There are some who work during their vacations to earn for the next academic session.
To begin with, we could stop calling people working in the construction sector as construction workers or labourers. They should be recognized as an important profession. They could be helpers or assistants. Nobody wants to be called a construction worker because the image is not good.
Mechanizing the sector is another way. It will save time and make the job attractive. We already have youth trained in many vocational skills. Mechanization would help in shedding the perceived stigma of manual works.
The government is also working on a wage. This is good. To attract youth to this important sector, wages should be attractive. It might cost the government, but there are other benefits. Hiring thousands of expatriate labourers has indirect costs. Besides issues like absconding workers and other social problems, it is said that expatriate labourers are helping in draining out the scarce rupee. Then there are issues of sanitation and pollution when thousands of labourers flock to a place.
Working conditions and safety of workers is another issue in the sector today. The private sector is after profit and contractors will not bother as long as workers are paid their wages. This is even with legislation.
The government has the mandate to create job opportunities. This is a good opportunity both for the government and the jobseekers. An improved profile of those working at dzong construction sites, through improved wage, safety and working conditions will see youth, especially school dropouts coming forward. Besides it is also an opportunity to be a part of building or rebuilding our historic monuments.