Starting this month, work permits for foreign workers in four occupations will not be renewed and issued according to labour ministry officials.

The move is in line with the Regulation on Recruitment and Management of Foreign Workers, 2012.

A notification from the Department of Labour listed carpenters in furniture units, architects, construction supervisors, and Early Childhood and Care Development (ECCD) Manager and or staff in the closed occupation category.

The decision is also expected to facilitate employment opportunities and skill development of the workforce in the country.

Director of the Department of Labour, Sonam Wangdi, said that the decision was made in line with the policy regarding foreign workers. “If we have the skills available in the country, we cannot use the skills of the  foreign workers.”

He said there were enough skills in the country in these four occupational groups. “The ministry is also working online where the application for the closed category jobs would be automatically prohibited.

There were 28 categories of occupation, which were in closed job category before the recent notification. This means that the skills that are needed for these job categories are available in the country and that these jobs are closed for foreign workers. Beginning November 1, this year four new job categories were added to the existing closed job categories taking the number to 32.

As it involves teaching and guiding children between ages of six months and five years, there are enough trained teachers who can do the job comfortably, Sonam Wangdi said.

The labour department had initially issued a notification on October 20 and October 22 that listed two more job categories –civil and electrical engineers, and primary and secondary education teachers in the closed category.

Sonam Wangdi said that the notification published was an error. “During the discussion, these two job categories were also considered but was not included in the final list.”

He said the list was a draft one which got published. “The revised list was also notified.”

Some of the closed occupations include accountants, administrators, business managers, computer operators, electricians, plumbers, gardeners, receptionists, tailors, and security guards among others.

According to a recent study the labour department conducted, about 344 people were trained in carpentry between 2016 and 2017. Of the 344 people trained, only about 176 were employed in the country.

There were about 408 furniture houses in the country as of 2017 December.

Sonam Wangdi said there were enough architects in the country. “Some architects are without jobs for about four years. Although ECCD is a new concept, existing teachers have the skills to do the job.”

He said that if the skills were available in the country, the labour ministry would include those jobs that have sufficient skills in the closed category as per labour and employment regulations. “It is dependent on the availability of skills.”

He said that this would also curb some of the possible fronting cases where licenses of furniture houses were in the names of the Bhutanese but run by foreign workers.

The study also found that there were 47 furniture houses that were run by Bhutanese, which were not dependent on foreign workers.

Sonam Wangdi said that currently the country has adequate vocational training institute graduates who have the necessary skills to do the jobs, which could replace some of the jobs in the closed category list.

There were about 285 foreign workers working in furniture houses. Records with the ministry show that there were more than 53,000 foreign workers in the country today.

Rinchen Zangmo