Yangchen C Rinzin  

The ministry of labour and human resources must enforce Regulations on Working Condition 2012 to ensure employees in the private sectors are not exploited. It should also ensure additional jobs are created for jobseekers.

This was one of the four recommendations submitted by the Social and Cultural Committee on the SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth report at the National Assembly on February 4.

Presenting the report to the House, Bji-Kar-Tshog-Uesu member, Ugen Tenzin, said that the committee observed that private sector employees, especially in the hospitality sector, are engaged in works beyond eight hours a day and 48 hours a week.

“It was also found that private-sector employees are deprived of a day off in a week, work long hours without any conditional benefits,” he said. “This is a clear violation of labour laws and regulations and exploitation by business firms.”

It was also reported that private sectors apply excessive multi-tasking without additional benefits and compensation including lack of post-retirement benefits, provident fund, gratuity, GIS and pensions.

Ugen Tenzin also reported that the committee also recommended that Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) must align to the opportunities in the construction, tourism and production sectors.

“This should be achieved by allowing trainees through introducing exchange programmes and short terms training,” he said. “The practical course should be increased and lecturers should get training abroad to improve competencies.”

The report also recommended that there is a need for proper alignment of the TVET Blueprint and Bhutan Education Blueprint (2014-2024) to cater to the increasing number of youth coming out of the secondary schools.

Although TVET Blueprint states that majority of the employment opportunities should be in the construction, tourism and production sector, there are 48,028 foreign workers in the country as of May 2019.

“This is also because Bhutanese youth are reluctant to work in this field, which is why we must address the issue.”

It was also observed that two significant challenges in the TVET systems were the rising rate of youth unemployment and the increasing number of youth coming into the labour market for the first time. Another challenge highlighted was the need to provide a skilled workforce to increase workforce productivity in both the private and hydropower sectors.

There are 827 trainees in technical training institutes and 403 in the Zorig Chusum institutes.

Ugen Tenzin said that one of the significant challenges is youth unemployment, which stands at 15.7 percent and the labour ministry has initiated the employment responsibility system to have multi-sectoral approach in creating employment.

The multi-sectorial approach claims to create an estimated 26,609 job opportunities in the 12th Plan. It has also created Youth Engagement and Livelihood Programme (YELP) to provide school-to-work transition support to the jobseekers. The ministry has also sent 7,947 youth as overseas workers.

With 40 members voting Yes, one No, and three abstained, the House endorsed all the four recommendations submitted by the Committee.

Bhutan is among 193 countries to adopt the sustainable development agenda. The rapid integrated policy assessment in 2015 found that of the 169 targets, 143 are relevant to Bhutan. Of which 134 targets were integrated with the 11th Plan and the remaining in the 12th Plan with 17 national key result areas.

The National Assembly in its 3rd Plenary directed the social and cultural committee to review implementation of SDGs 8 and present the report to the House in the third session. SDG 8 aims to promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.

The two key performance indicators are maintaining the national unemployment rate below 2.5 percent and reduce youth unemployment rate to 6-6.5 percent. However, today the national unemployment rate stands at 3.4 percent.

Meanwhile, some members submitted additional recommendations like how to solve the issues on the gender difference in the TVET trainers, to observe the situation and how it has affected the economy, to amend BCSR based on the unemployment situation, and blacklist companies that do not follow rules and regulations.

The House decided to refer all the recommendations to the labour ministry for further action.