The Opposition has said that the government must do more to create employment opportunities in the country. According to some approximations, more than 80,000 jobs will have to be created before the end of the 12th Plan. The Opposition’s argument is that the government’s pledge to create just 5,000 jobs a year would result in deficit of over 60,000 jobs by the end of its term. That the unemployment situation, the state of youth unemployment in particular, could prove to be a more vexing problem in the coming years ought to be taken as a serious note of caution.

Yes, ideally, we should have more jobs than jobseekers. It was even argued that the country has more jobs than jobseekers. But, going by the number of jobseekers in the country today and the unemployment figures that only seem to ratchet up year after year, it is hard to believe we have more jobs than jobseekers. When figures are giving lie to the reality, such arguments indicate that we are incapable of comprehending the gravity of the situation. Copping out is not an option.

At a meeting with the press not very long past, the prime minister said that the government accorded improving employment situation in the country the top priority. In the current Plan, labour ministry will so focus on transforming, revolutionising should we say, the technical and vocational education training (TVET) programmes and creating productive and meaningful work, whatever the latter is supposed to mean. That at least there are plans afoot – worth Nu 2.8 billion – to address the rising unemployment problem in the country is reassuring, but there is today an urgent need to understand that just creating employment opportunities will not be enough. Failing to keep pace with the demands of the changing times will only give us more pain than peace.

As well as creating employment opportunities by thousands every year which will mostly be in the sectors that demand skills, there is a need to look at quality of jobs we create. Dignify the small jobs that we create with good pay and status. This little change alone can go a long way in turning the unemployment situation over significantly. It is not as if the TVET programmes have not trained many a young Bhutanese for myriad jobs; the jobs that we create should find takers.

Concerning the situation in hand, what we can ill afford is to not take criticisms in our stride and remain divided on one of the biggest problems facing the nation today.