The news that the government will explore all possible ways to help Bhutanese study or work in Australia must have come as a relief for many young Bhutanese and their families.
After meeting with more than 50 education consultancy and placement firms in Thimphu on Friday, Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji and Labour Minister Karma Dorji explained that the reason for the high visa rejection rate. It was because of a surge in the number of visa applications, poor documentation by consultants and the preference given to those pursuing bachelor’s or master’s degrees.
What the meeting and the aftermath brings is a clear picture of the situation when rumours are doing the rounds the government is planning to stop Bhutanese from going to Australia. In fact, Lyonpo said that he has requested the Australian government to allow Bhutanese to work without having to go through a study programme. He added that the government has also requested the Australian government to consider whether the government could stand as a guarantor for the financial support for those applying to study in Australia.
He said that the government would pay the fees in case an individual is not able to pay. The only condition, he said, is that it is only in selected fields of study and that there will be a bond between the individual and the government. And, it would be easier for Bhutanese to go to Australia if the Australian government doesn’t make IELTS a requirement for Bhutanese applying for an Australian visa to either study or work. This, Lyonpo said would be worked out between the two governments.
However, the government must also create job opportunities inside the country that pay well. The bigger concern is that we may be losing young talents because our social setup and policies do not make working in Bhutan attractive. At the rate young people are leaving the country, Bhutan soon might not have a young and dynamic workforce.
The government has previously argued that as long as it benefits the government in terms of easing pressure on unemployment or increasing remittance, Bhutanese going to Australia is not a problem. But there is a need to understand this situation deeply. We know why many Bhutanese are leaving for Australia. If we even can’t have a secure life after retirement, it is a waste to spend more than half our life working and retiring with benefits that cannot even buy a decent home.
So, here is an opportunity for the government and policymakers to make working in Bhutan meaningful.