A study found the programmes and policies contradicting each other

Labour: Although framed with the good intentions, the various programmmes the government introduced to create employment contradict instead of complimenting each other.

This was one of the observations of the National Council’s Social and Cultural Affairs Committee that presented its report on national employment policies, programmes and strategies yesterday.

The committee’s review focused on employment creation and employment promotion and reported that the labour ministry placed paramount importance on ‘skilling youth for work and life’ in the 11th Plan.

In doing so, various short-term skills trainings like Youth Employment Skills (YES), Graduate Skills Programme (GSP), Skills for Employment and Entrepreneur Development (SEED), Apprenticeship Training Programme (ATP), Direct Employment Scheme (DES) and on-the-job trainings were implemented.

The government injected a total budget of Nu 550M (million) under the Economic Stimulus Plan to support youth employment promotion programmes (YEPPs).

Since no study has been carried out to ascertain the impact of these programmes, the committee decided to review its efficacy. Owing to time constraints and limited human resource, the committee outsourced the employment promotion part to iGNHaS, Royal University of Bhutan.

“The study specifically focuses on the beneficiaries of three programmes such as DES, Guaranteed Employment Programme (GEP) and ATP,” committee chairman and Bumthang’s Councilor Nima said.

The study found that the training institutes and beneficiaries of the YES and GSP were disadvantaged as employers preferred DES beneficiaries because of the salary subsidy. “Such a practice has led to inconsistencies, creating inequality in resource distribution,” committee member and Wangdue’s councilor Tashi Dorji said.

The two programmes, according to the report, both implemented by labour ministry were competing against each other instead of complementing. For instance, the implementation of YES and DES programmes, according to the committee are conflicting policies.

Training institutions were offered to train unemployed youth through the YES programme. Following a rapid market appraisal (job market survey) the training institutions provided training to the employees.

“Contrarily, the government again came up with DES programme, which supported private firms with partial payment of salary for those recruited through this scheme,” the report states. As DES had the advantage of subsidized salary payment, employers preferred DES employees to YES employees. Some training institutes were unable to place most of the YES trainees despite the need expressed by the employers during the rapid market appraisal.

With regard to implementation, the committee observed that the government was either not taking proactive initiative in following up on the employers’ grievances regarding the misconduct of employees. This is also attributed to the inefficiency of the ministry’s dispute settlement body to follow up on the employers’ grievances.

“It has been reported that an employee, who has signed a contract with the ministry, do not get prompt response and are instead told to forward the case to courts,” Tashi Dorji said, adding that sustainability of the DES programme is at risk. “By the end of the 11th Plan when the government stops providing subsidy, DES employees will be unemployed.”

The committee report also states that the labour ministry has gainfully employed more than 2,500 unemployed youth in various private and public sector as part of YEPP since July 2014. Both employers and the employees perceived that the YEPP has been able to narrow down the unemployment situation only to some extent.

The committee submitted the need to enhance the quality of YEPP, especially in terms of the duration of the programme.

Some of the recommendations proposed on employment creation are to recognize agriculture sector, review and ease land leasing procedure and enhance credit facilities.

Other recommendations are to invest and capitalize on the potential of Bhutan as a meeting, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) destination besides cultural and trekking tourism. The committee also recommends monitoring employment situation in FDIs and hydropower constructions in terms of skills and knowledge transfer and replacement of expat workers by Bhutanese.

Recommendations on employment promotions include establishing a coordination mechanism to ensure that every sector and agency prioritize employment promotion and generation. The committee also recommended the need assessment of TVET Act, and re-aligning some programmes, especially the YES and DES programmes in terms of their intent and objective since the target beneficiaries are the same.

Since the government is spending a huge amount of money in these programmes, the committee recommended effective monitoring and evaluation system in place besides separate promotion and regulation of YEPP so that it is not conflicting.

Deliberation on the report will continue today.

Kinga Dema