Contractors ready to employ locals but only those skilled

Yangchen C Rinzin 

Contractors and builders admit there is a huge demand for labour in the construction sector and that if the government would provide them, they are ready to employ any number.

The Build Bhutan project of the government’s Economic Contingency Plan is expected to engage about 7,000 job seekers in the construction sector. 

The project is expected to meet the immediate labour force needs.

But the contractors had a few conditions. Some said that the job seekers have to be skilled with required training, and the supply of labour force has to be continuous with incentives like top-up of wages for the employees.

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

Most of the contractors said that it was time that the construction sector starts accepting local workers provided they are skilled and willing to accept the job available.

However, majority of the contractors were not aware of the Build Bhutan project or how to engage workers through this project.

Contractors told Kuensel that although they had submitted their feedback and suggestions on the requirement of workers, there was no concrete decision taken as to how the government could help them.

“We had submitted a kind of skilled and unskilled labourers we require including the incentives to employ them. But there was never a talk of Build Bhutan project, which is new to us,” a contractor based in Trongsa said.

Another contractor based in Thimphu said contractors are already short of workers and they have applied to the labour ministry, but it has not been of much help. While their need was huge, the ministry could supply only a few to them.

“So, we’re not sure if the Build Bhutan project is really going to supply the number of workers we need. If it does, then we would definitely employ as many as we can,” a contractor in Trongsa said.

The project will also be training about 2,000 people for different certificate levels and re-skill 800 technical training institute graduates. It will ensure to incentivise the construction sector by topping-up wages to make the jobs attractive.

“The government, as an incentive, award work to those who employ the most Bhutanese workers without having to participate in the bid,” a contractor from Wangdue said. “Sometimes the Bhutanese workers’ attitude is hard to deal with compared to foreign labourers.”

“We need such project immediately to fill the gap right now,” a contractor in Thimphu said. “If it comes up only after the pandemic is over, it could be late.”

Meanwhile, labour minister Ugyen Dorji said that the project is not yet launched and the details are still being discussed.

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