Bhutan is still dealing with a complex reality: the limited job market. The notion that the government should create jobs for all has not helped. There are no desk jobs, an image of government job, for everyone. The government cannot absorb all the job seekers.
Something has to change. There is increasing diversity in professions. A rapidly changing or modernising society, as we are believed to be, needs greatly diversified services, especially in an urban setting. How do we deal with it?
In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have seen that there are a lot of potentials to be tapped. In fact, the pandemic has exposed a whole gamut of opportunities that Bhutanese could take up now.
There is training of tailors being organised in Tsirang. The name of the training, Western Garment Tailoring Training, may sound odd, but this is one initiative that could become not only lucrative, but also provide jobs and livelihoods to thousands of Bhutanese. Western garment means trousers and shirts. How would that create jobs where the national dress is mandatory at work places?
There is a huge demand for trousers and shirts. For instance, there are about 12,848 DeSuups who needs at least two sets of dress. The growing awareness on occupational health and safety requires more work place specific and appropriate attire. There are many public corporations that insist on uniform that suits the job. Trousers and shirts, not Bhutanese attire, is increasingly becoming the accepted uniform at workplace. We are not even talking about the armed forces.
And soon, we would see thousands of young Bhutanese joining the Gyalsung programme where trainings will need more than gho and kira. Training school dropouts, reskilling the thousands of tailors and many others “educated” jobless people would be a win-win situation.
Before the closure of the borders, all these work are sent to Jaigaon or Mela Bazaar or Dathgari, the towns across the borders. Uneducated but skilled tailors make a living from stitching uniforms for Bhutanese organisations or agencies. There are repercussions. While jobs are outsourced across the border, there is a huge out flow of the Indian Rupee.
It is not only tailors. The pandemic has reconfirmed our dependence on our neighbourers across the border. With the entry of expatriate workers restricted and thousands wanting to go home, there is an acute shortage of skilled workers. Those in the construction sector are feeling the heat when the limited skilled workers are doubling and tripling the cost of their service. To put into context, a tiler charges Nu 75 for laying a square foot of tiles today. The rate was Nu 25 before many tillers left for home in India.
There are shortages of carpenters, tillers, masons, welders and many more. If this gap can be filled with Bhutanese, it will provide the solution to the job market. The reality is that the needs and demands are changing with times. The pandemic will force us to change a lot of things as we look into a new normal.