Bhutanese working abroad fears losing jobs

Phub Dem | Paro

With the Covid-19 situation worsening in many places, Bhutanese have returned home in relief flights that the government has helped to arrange to ferry them back.

Galey Norbu left his job at the Dubai International Airport and decided to return home fearing that the company might not pay him if the business remains idle for a long time.

He said that working at the airport was associated with lots of restrictions and risks. It has only been six months since he left the country to work in Dubai.

“I have no savings. The virus has made everything a mess.”

Galey is among the 397 Bhutanese, mostly youths from Kuwait, Qatar and Dubai who have returned home since last Friday.

While some youths have resigned from their jobs, others did not resign since some companies would ask them to return after the situation becomes normal.

Majority of the youths had been working in the Middle East through the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources’ overseas employment programme. However, those who returned are mostly those who went through private consultancy firms.

Like Galey, many youths went to the Middle East seeking employment as they could not secure proper jobs at home.

He said that youths once again became jobless due to Covid-19.

Galey said youths took loans to work overseas through consultancy firms.

He said that many return home empty-handed. “They are more tensed about repayment than the infection.”

Eldest among his siblings, Galey Norbu is concerned about supporting his family financially.

“The youths are wondering what the government will do to help them.”

He proposed the government to give interim activities for the youths returning home even if it was for a minimal wage.

Another youth, Sonam Tobgay worked as a Barista and Crepe maker but decided to return home because the Covid-19 situation is worsening in Dubai. It has been a year since Sonam Tobgay left for Dubai.

He didn’t resign and expects the company to recall him once the situation returns to normal.

There are many Bhutanese who were still in the Middle East.

Nima Choden, who had been working with M.H. Alshaya, decided to stay back. She said that she was currently home quarantined, but the company agreed to pay her full salary.

If the situation worsens, the company will reduce 25 per cent of the gross salary, she said.

Nima Choden said that by staying back, she was both earning and reducing the possibility of carrying home the virus.

She said that there was no future in Bhutan when it comes to youth employment. “Will the government give jobs to all those returning home? I don’t want to burden the country right now.”

Like Nima, many were reluctant to return home fearing they might lose their jobs.

Another Bhutanese, Rinzin Lham, said she applied for voluntary resignation and was waiting for the company to process her benefits.

“The embassy agreed to arrange flights after everything gets settled with the benefits.”

Meanwhile, health officials collected swab samples from all those coming from Doha after a Bhutanese returning from Kuwait tested positive for Covid-19 the previous day.

In another flight yesterday, 116 Bhutanese, mostly returning from Australia and  Malaysia reached Paro. Seven from Bangkok came in a cargo flight.

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