The report is damning—close to 70 percent of job seekers in Bhutan prefer to go abroad to work.

This is a survey report from the employment ministry.

When emigration rate is high, it indicates that something is seriously wrong with the country’s economic and employment policies.

We are in the process of cleaning the civil service, which makes sense because of our smallness. What we also know is that the civil service alone does not and, cannot, define the country’s economy and long-term future.

Where is our private sector, the so-called engine of growth? There are no job opportunities in the private sector, at least not the kind that ensures security at the end of one’s long career.

Australia is the choice for most Bhutanese today. What is worrying is that we are not just losing young talents but also a critical talent pool that helps shape our long-term national vision.

The civil service has and continues to see an unprecedented loss of talent, especially at technical and managerial levels. What is more worrying is that the gap is widening—we are losing experience and brains.

The report says the continuous emigration of the working-age population from Bhutan could be both an opportunity and a challenge. But the fact is that it is less opportunity and more challenge.

The time has come for the country to prioritise development issues from a modern perspective. Civil service should not be the aim for young Bhutanese. Except for some critical sectors, skill development should receive the pride of place in our continuing saga of nation-building.

Skilled professionals should earn more than civil servants. But that alone will not make much difference if we do not make working in Bhutan attractive. We are a small economy. To make our more vibrant, we need radical policy shift.

For example, why would a Bhutanese work for almost 30 years and retire to a life of uncertainty? Our social security system, in a welfare society that we like to flaunt to the world beyond, is in search of true meaning.

We will continue to lose talents and people so long as we fail to give special priority to the sectors outside of civil service.