The Direct Employment Scheme (DES) initiated by the labour ministry was found relevant to national development objectives.

The programme, which was put on hold for an evaluation, was found to have a major role in providing job opportunities to the unemployed in the 11th Plan according to the DES evaluation report.

The evaluation carried out jointly by the labour ministry and GNHC recommended that since there are insufficient programmes to address youth unemployment, DES is one of the means to tackle the problem.

It was found that the programme since 2014 has benefitted more than 5,000 participants in the 11th Plan. The DES under Guaranteed Employment Program (GEP) is one of the flagship programmes designed to engage unemployed jobseekers of classes ten and above.

The scheme is based on a cost-sharing arrangement where participating private firms and ministry share the cost of the monthly allowance.

However, the sustainability of the programme was found to be one of the biggest challenges. “The challenge would be two folds in terms of financing of the programme in future and some employers may not be able to continue employing the participants when the wage subsidy is removed.”

It recommends exploring innovative mechanism to fund the programme through creation of trust fund for youth employment, to sustain the programme and provide structured training programmes to sustain employment.

The DES was identified for evaluation to assess its relevance, efficiency, effectiveness and sustainability.

The survey collected responses from 470 DES participants from the year 2014-2015 from a target population of about 2,756. A separate questionnaire was administered for 158 employers, and in- depth interviews were carried out with employers, and MoLHR officials.

According to the report, the total budget allocated for DES was Nu 751 million (M) through economic stimulus plan and the continuity of the programme is uncertain, as it is funded with support from the Government of India.

The evaluation revealed that no strategies were in place to sustain the programme financially if the government or development partners stopped funding.

As per the findings, the regional officials reported that the current wage levels inclusive of subsidies couldn’t be sustained, as it would disrupt the existing wage levels in the companies once the subsidies are removed.

“The current levels set by the programme may be too high to be paid to the participants given their qualification and experience.”

The report recommended the government to revise the subsidy provided by the labour ministry based on the sector or region, as there are less job takers in the eastern and central region.

“There is also potential for efficiency gains by exploring synergies between the DES programmes and other youth employment programmes like cross-sector collaboration with other projects such as land Use Certification and Priority Sector Lending,” it states.

However, the report pointed out lack of human resources in terms of number and capacity to provide services efficiently to monitor the programme implementation.

The programme on average spent about Nu 90,000 per capita to make the unemployed youth engaged in productive work and find gainful employment.

The evaluation recommended designing a programme to supply labour to sectors that have critical shortage and provide higher wages and expend the programme to youth who do not meet the minimum qualification levels.

“A tracer system needs to be developed to keep track of all beneficiaries of the programme for future evaluation purposes.”

Meanwhile, labour minister Ugyen Dorji said that since the report had been just published, the ministry would go through the report and take into consideration all the recommendations and findings to work on a new programme.

“We would work on a new improvised programme, which would be related to wage subsidy. We would not resume DES directly and it would still be on hold until we announce.”

In an earlier interview with Kuensel, Lyonpo had said that the scheme would continue after the ministry completes its review and revise it based on the evaluation.

“We’ve not yet budgeted and based on the findings of the report, we’ll see if there is a need for improvement or if it should continue,” Lyonpo had said.

Yangchen C Rinzin