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.