Youth unemployment is perhaps the biggest social and economic problem we are confronted with today. And it is growing.

Skills mismatch, lack of entrepreneurship, life skills-based education, and access to capital are among the primary factors that contribute to the problem that has serious personal and social costs. We are beginning to feel the impact in terms of rising financial hardship, crime and urban poverty.

Further to the staggering youth unemployment rate of 13.2 percent, more than 20,000 jobseekers are expected to enter the labour market annually. Our economic growth isn’t creating an impressive number of jobs. Because our young people are not willing to take the kind of jobs that are made available, it will be a daunting challenge for the government to address the problem of rising youth unemployment.

The small interventions that we have contrived like overseas employment programme have brought in new challenges, which will continue to grow if we ignore the systemic flaws. If the education system has outlived its utility and should be dispensed with, as some are of the view, let the change come. But the problem of joblessness cannot be addressed with a change in the education system alone.

From the perspective of economic growth, creating employment opportunities at home is by far more preferable to sending jobseekers abroad. We know our shortfalls. How to address or improve them ought not to be intractable.

Surveys have repeatedly found that young Bhutanese job seekers fresh out of schools, institutes and universities lack the skills required to take the jobs that are available. Jobseekers have problems of their own. They do not look to blue-collar jobs as a prospective employment opportunity. Parents and jobseekers still prefer safe, high-paying and stable desk job to employment in the private sector. Self-employment is not easy for many due to various reasons like a small market and lack of easy access to finance.

Rather than giving pay rise to the civil servants every five years, measure like increasing wage rate significantly for blue-collar and low-paying jobs could, in fact, go a long way in solving the problem of rising youth unemployment in the country.

That the government is cognizant of the challenges and is ready to tackle the issue with carefully planned approaches is reassuring. The labour ministry is looking at creating over 80,000 jobs in five years and bringing the youth unemployment rate to nine percent. It is an ambitious plan. But then, we have arrived at a time when we can ill afford to not be ambitious.

What is needed is a clear objective and sustained effort.