Male Iron Rat Year

Yangyel Lhaden 

The government launched one of the most ambitious projects to help resolve the chronic labour shortage issue in the country.

The Build Bhutan Project was launched in July with a massive budget outlay of Nu 1.04 billion under Economic Contingency Plan. The Project was designed as a response to Covid-19, whereby laid-off employees, unemployed, and registered jobseekers could enter the construction sector and off-set the shortage of foreign workers.

The project targets to engage 7,000 individuals over the next two years.

As of December 31, only 549 individuals out of 2,332 applicants were engaged against a total vacancy of 7,037.  A total of 451 candidates are availing skilling programmes out of which 248 are on the job training and 203 are availing skilling programmes in four technical training institutes. The project also helped set up 22 specialised firms and to meet the shortage of skilled workers 73 individuals have been certified through recognition of prior learning.

Mismatch of skills, unattractive wage rates, and the impact of nationwide lockdowns slowed the rate of worker placement. The revision of the wages was to overcome these forces.

Within two months of the first positive case of Covid-19 in the country 11,235 people were out of jobs in the domestic market. Most of the laid-off employees were from tourism sector. By July, more than 30,000 Bhutanese were seeking employment and the number included people who were laid off due to pandemic and overseas returnees.

The other sector which was affected the most was the construction sector with thousands of labourer who couldn’t return with border closure and thousands who left during the pandemic.

As of December, there were about 10,000 foreign workers in the country. During the pandemic, labour ministry facilitated the entry of 900 skilled foreign workers.

To engage laid-off employees and jobseekers, the ministry subscribed programmes on the online learning platform- Coursera, entrepreneurship course, and western garment training.

For the overseas returnees, the labour ministry also conducted entrepreneurship course for 15 days in Thimphu which benefitted 30 individuals.

A month-long western garment training was initiated for 48 participants to develop a skilled labour force as a means to substitute imports.

The government also formed a TVET council to reform vocational education and training.