Alternative employment in agriculture preferred

RSEIA study found

Yangchen C Rinzin

Indicating a keen interest in alternative employment, especially in agriculture, those affected by the Covid-19 are interested to receive support to set out an alternative career path.

This is what the Rapid Socio-Economic Impact Assessment of Covid-19 on Bhutan’s Tourism Sector (RSEIA) has found. RSEIA was carried out to gain a quick understanding of the overall nature and impact of Covid-19 on tourism, including an effect on individuals.

A total of 1,285 individuals engaged in tourism and affiliated sectors were interviewed in April conducted by UNDP Bhutan and NSB. Only a few opted for vocations such as electricians, delivery, carpentry and plumbing.

The report stated more than 23 percent respondents indicated their interest in agriculture after they had lost their job due to Covid-19. A few were sent on unpaid leave, and a few were laid off.

Vocations such as masonry, tiling and bar bending were the least popular among the respondents. These are areas that are being proposed under the re-skilling and up-skilling stimulus programme by labour ministry.

However, majority of self-employed like tailors and street vendors did not indicate their preference, as their businesses are still partially open.     

Many had responded that they would instead start another business or find opportunities in their existing area of work instead of looking another job.

“This is important to consider, as the tourism strategy facilitates a focus on opportunities and skilling,” the report noted.

When it comes to gender, only a few women showed interest in the alternative employment options and expressed interest in certain vocations similar to their current professions like working in beauty salon, as receptionist, as domestic help and other secretarial work.

Moving back to villages was most preferred especially among the self-employed to cope up the crisis. Those working as a regular, casual employee, and family worker also opted the same.

The qualitative research also showed that many who lost livelihoods are planning to work on their family farms or move back with parents as a temporary measure. At the same time, they’re also seeking other employment and livelihood opportunities.

Returning to their places of origin is the only viable option for low-income workers who lack saving or social protection mechanisms is global trend, according to the report.

The RSEIA recommended that the focus of agricultural stimulus plan must be complemented by value-chain linking activities (processing and packaging) and improve productivity to benefit those returning to their villages.

“Employment and re-skilling programmes must be designed with the gender-sensitive lens, as it is important to ensure options that are gender-sensitive,” the RSEIA recommended. “The alternatives must reach women based on their current occupations, such as engagement in handicraft and service sectors.”

Options like public-private partnerships and other partnerships for skilling and upgrading of facilities are also recommended.

For instance, a partnership between Technical and Vocational Education and Training programme and local contractors can have multiple benefits in building technical and vocational skills, the report states.

There are more than 3,000 travel agencies, 160 TCB certified hotels (3-5 stars), 665 budget (or non-certified) hotels and over 4,200 restaurants and cafes in Bhutan.

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