Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

Although gradually, more and more Bhutanese have started to take construction jobs in Phuentsholing.

Construction companies, without choice, are also recruiting more Bhutanese.

One of the team leaders of such working group from Toribari, Bimal Kumar Ghalley, said it was an opportunity for the youths to learn construction skills.

“In the beginning, Bhutanese youth were reluctant but the pandemic has changed the situation,” he said, adding that they are forced to take up such works because there were no other means to earn.

“Now, they don’t mind working in the construction sector anymore,” Bimal Kumar said, adding having youths work in the sector would make them financially more independent.

“Most importantly, they reduce the sector’s dependency on imported workforce.”

Bimal Kumar and 10 other locals from Toribari have taken up a wall construction job recently.

Meanwhile, Bhutanese are not skilled in much of the construction works; many, though, are engaged in wall constructions. Contractors say this is the only job Bhutanese can take up as of now.

Bhim Kumar Rai, 48 also had taken up a wall construction job from a construction firm in Phuentsholing. His team had seven men from

Samtse and they completed the wall construction in 37 days.

The team earned about Nu 246,600, which means each earned more than Nu 35,000.

“Except for building construction works, Bhutanese can work in the construction sector,” Bhim Kumar Rai said, explaining with time Bhutanese youth would be able to work in all kinds of construction jobs.

The proprietor of Hi-Tec construction firm, which recently started working on the Mega Dry Port in Pasakha, Tshewang Norbu, said the Bhutanese workers were not able to do even a small works such as the binding the rods.

“They can just do small works of lifting,” he said. “Their work efficiency is also three times lesser than the imported labourers.”

Tshewang Norbu said timely completion of works would be difficult without the imported workers. He said it had become important to have foreign workers and Hi-Tec had already submitted a letter to the concerned agency asking for 40-50 foreign workers.

Currently, Hi-Tec has recruited 133 Bhutanese workers and four Indian labourers.

“Bhutanese workers have to mix with the foreign workers and learn.”

Vajra Builder’s owner, Ugyen Yoezer, said the situation was still bad.

“Bhutanese charge higher rates. The rates have doubled.”

Vajra Builder has about 40 workers and all are Bhutanese. Although they don’t know the work, they are learning on the job.

Ugyen Yoezer said Bhutanese could work but they want more money and do not continue the work for a long time and leave after few stints after getting paid.

At least 15 workers have left from his company, he added.

Meanwhile, the increase in the salary with Build Bhutan Project (BBP) has made Bhutanese workers more enthusiastic. Prior to the increase there were 50 BBP workers in Phuentsholing.

“We are receiving more online registrations,” a labour official said.