For a sustainable job creation

One of the biggest challenges facing the country today is the rising youth unemployment. We have a population of about 141,000 in the age bracket of 15 to 24. As more and more young people graduate and enter job market, unemployment issue will only grow.

According to a government stat, about 18,000 young people enter job market every year; we are able to provide jobs for just about 6,000 jobseekers all in all. Of the 5,780 jobs identified last year out of civil service, armed forces and government corporations, only 3,593 were taken. Even as we are faced with more jobseekers than available jobs, why is there the shortage of takers?

With a small private sector, its absorption capacity is less. Where do we then look to create jobs for the increasing number of our young jobseekers? In the last four years, about 60,000 young people were placed in various jobs and training opportunities. Those that underwent training, even as they now have skills, are among the jobless today. Urging our young people to take advantage of available jobs is easy, but skills without job and income opportunities do little to help alleviate unemployment situation in the country.

There have been some notable interventions from the government, but much leaves to be desired. Direct employment can take in only so many employment seekers at a time; self-employment has a challenge of its own. When access to finance is difficult, self-employment cannot take off. That is where a majority of our young people are today.

The government’s overseas employment programme (OEP) made quite a stir recently. Royal Audit Authority’s employment generation and promotion initiative report has found that inadequacies, lapses and deficiencies concerning OEP. Further to that, only 2,535 job seekers  were sent overseas between 2013 and 2016, the labour ministry has met only 7.8 percent of the 30,000 target it had set for OEP. According to the report, the labour ministry implemented OEP without setting a clear target. It has also been found that the ministry failed to put in place safety measures for the Bhutanese sent overseas through agents, resulting in issues like untimely and exploitative payments and excessive working hours.

Creation of employment opportunities ought to be sustainable. That is how unemployment problem is solved. When those who are employed overseas through OEP return, is there any guarantee that they will have jobs at home? Unemployment issue will not only linger on but will grow significantly.

For a country like Bhutan, this could have serious implications. It is not enough that we make do with short-term interventions. Time has come for us to look at long-term strategies to address unemployment issue in the country.

1 reply
  1. seekseek
    seekseek says:

    Still quite amazing that there are …thousands of foreign workers in Bhutan because the supply of Bhutanese workers is not matching the needs. I thought this was already a well known fact, years and years ago. Something to do with the education system/ curriculum, the prospect of a secure and well paid government job and the low esteem of dirty-hand jobs (the Bhutanese outside Bhutan notwithstanding). A few observations, none of them new. My apologies for offending anybody.
    Let’s start with doubling or tripling the wages (in any event at least matching the wages of blue collar workers) of Bhutanese plumbers so that plumbers and similar workmen jobs become more attractive and socially acceptable. Equip the trained and capable workers with first class tools and other facilities so that they can start their own business. Make sure that only the best plumbing materials and techniques are allowed to be used/ imported, not some of the stuff you find now in the various shops and that are used all over the various building sites in Thimphu.
    Make sure that the banks only give loans if durable and first class materials are used in the building sector. Durability and quality should come first and higher wages are part of the solution.
    Also how to do away with the notion that the government is to provide jobs, promises notwithstanding? Small scale job initiatives in the private sector are often coming to an end because of the incredible high rents. Small business people work most of the time for their landlord instead of making a profit that they can use for maintenance, buying new equipment and make further investments in business expansion or better wages. Provide cheap shop and work places to new entrepreneurs?
    Lastly, there will be anyhow less and less jobs – in Bhutan and in the rest of the world – , thanks to globalization, difficulties to compete with the larger markets, transport advantages, technology gaps, quality, price, durability (with perhaps some niche sectors excluded). Unemployment is rising everywhere is the world, supported by technological and IT advancements, robots etc). Instead of trying to emulate or copy the rest of the world, focus on specific areas where Bhutan is unique (I read recently a great story of a Dasho who went back to farming, introducing new farming techniques, crops etc, an example for other villagers).
    My submission is that unemployment is going to rise dramatically anyhow (Bhutan has actually low unemployment compared with many rich “Western” nations), explore ways to keep unemployed people happy and busy: sports, culture, part time jobs are examples that may be further explored. Bhutanese can together often do incredible things: planting trees, creating bicycle paths, all sorts of clubs, bird watching, photographing etc . There must be much more to do in “free time” – something unemployed have in abundance, some brainstorming will certainly result in great initiatives. The worst thing that can happen if an ever expanding army of unemployed keep insisting that all solutions must come from the government.

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