Yangchen C Rinzin

A round 7,000 job seekers will find work in the construction sector through the labour ministry’s Build Bhutan Project beginning next month.

The job seekers will include both the youth who were unemployed before Covid-19 pandemic and those that were laid off by the companies following Covid-19 pandemic.

The project to meet the immediate labour force need in the construction sector was prepared by Economic Contingency Plan (ECP) Delivery Unit under the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The project, according to the delivery unit members will also retain the skilled labour workforce in the construction sector and build the sector as viable employment generating industry.

One of the ECP unit members while sharing the details during a press briefing yesterday, said that through this project, the ministry is looking into the supply of labour force, which means the unemployed and those who were laid off or directly affected by the Covid-19 situation.

He said there were almost 40,000 jobseekers registered on the labour ministry’s job portal. However, only 8,000 job seekers were actively looking for work before Covid-19.

At least 25,000 job seekers were either laid off, sent on unpaid leave, or partially paid due to Covid-19 impact, according to the unit’s estimate.

The unit is yet to receive the exact figure of employees laid off.

However, during a Situational Report on Employment presentation to the Joint Parliament Committee on April 29, the labour minister had said that at least 11,235 employees (projected)    were laid off (25 percent of regular and contract employees of private sectors).

“These job seekers who were affected by Covid-19 have also applied for Druk Gyalpo’s Relief Kidu,” the official said. “Of those that have registered for kidu, about 2,000 have applied to work in the construction sector.”

The official said that the labour ministry also carried out a rapid assessment of skilled and unskilled labour force needs in the construction sector, which revealed that there are about 20,000 numerous public and private projects.

“In these, they require about 7,000 skilled labour force. This assessment has also taken care of each occupational skill, and these are being worked out.”

The official said that since the ministry has an estimate of the labour force required, the project aims to provide skilled labour within themselves.

“We’re also looking at over 3,000 individuals to be skilled in the skilling programme and provide various levels of certifications,” the official added.

“We’re also looking to creating a specialised group of various occupational skills so that they can deliver the service as a group to sustain themselves.”

The ministry is also looking into training around 2,000 for different certificate levels and reskill 800 technical training institute graduates. The skilling programme will start in June.

The Build Bhutan Project will also ensure to incentivise the construction sector where the government is planning to top up the wages for employees. It will also incentivise employers to employee Bhutanese workers.

“We’re planning to set up a minimum wage for Bhutanese workers, and the government will pay the additional amount,” another member of the unit said. “This will make the work attractive in the construction sector.”

PMO’s principal secretary Chencho said that the ECP’s immediate aim is to resolve construction projects in public or private that have started or are on the verge of completion but are on halt because of Covid-19.

Chencho said that the situation has hugely disrupted the supply of workers, so the immediate solution is to augment or complement the workforce shortages affected by lockdown in India and border closure.

“This is an opportunity for us to take up the responsibility to build competency in the workforce which will benefit the sector in the long term.”

He said the Build Bhutan Project was to build long term competent labour workforce.

He said that although the wage is one component the government is looking into making the construction sector attractive with additional incentives such as PPE gears, decent accommodation facilities, and post-retirement benefits in the long run.