A group of parents and students sent to Japan through the “learn and earn programme” met with Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering and labour minister Ugyen Dorji on December 24, to appraise the government of the hardship in Japan.

Lyonpo Ugyen Dorji told Kuensel that the issue is being reviewed although the Cabinet has not had enough time to delve into it thoroughly due to the preparation of the prime minister’s visit to India. He said the decisions had to be taken with a proper study of the matter and that the government would come up with recommendations soon.

Some of the youth have returned home while over 700 youth are still studying and working in various cities of Japan. Each of the youth, both graduates and those who completed Class 12 have taken loans ranging from Nu 600,000 to Nu 700,000 and pays Nu 14,000 as interest at the rate of 8 percent.

Parents would be liable to pay the loan in case their children fail to do so. However, some of them who have returned said they have not been able to pay the loan instalments for months now.

The Ministry of Labour and Human Resources and Bhutan Employment Overseas (BEO) initiated the programme.

Many are reported to be earning and learning although some are reportedly having a difficult time.

According to some of the youth placed in Japan, they need not pay tuition fees for the first year as the placement firm pays a year’s fees and that they only need to pay loan instalments and for utilities. However, the financial burden on the candidate increases beginning from the second year, as the candidate has to pay study fee also.

The group also met with National Council Chairperson Tashi Dorji and members of the House’s Social and Cultural Affairs Committee. The Chairperson assigned the committee to review the matter urgently.

“Parents and students came to share their grievances. Our committee is looking into it,” chairman of the committee, Tshewang Rinzin, said.

A graduate who returned from International Futurity Academy in Osaka in October, Ngawang Dorji, said he could not pay his fee instalment which amounts to about 350,000 Japanese yen in six months. “Seven of us (from the academy) came back because we could not afford. Besides the fee, the cost of living is very high,” he said.

Damcho Rabten, another graduate who returned from Tokyo Institute of Language in October, said he had to complete a language course to pursue a Masters degree. He said there was no guarantee of getting a good job there even after completion of his studies.

Another youth Sonam Wangchuk said that BEO had provided an apartment for three persons where each youth would pay 15,000 Japanese yen. However, he said it was too congested for three persons to live in one apartment and that they decided that two would live in one apartment and that rent per head increased to about 20,000 Japanese yen.

They said that a student who can take up more than one job and work eight hours a day could earn about 200,000 Japanese yen a week. However, they said most places are strict on allowing a person to work for four hours only.

Work places for youth include cell phone companies and factories.

However, a father whose son returned from Japan a few months ago partially blames the youth’s unwillingness to work hard and that some parents had sent their children thinking that they would be spoilt if they are kept unemployed at home.

He said that most of the youth have never worked and that it was his son who was not willing to work that mainly led to his return. “The need to work hard is the same even in Australia. We have to also see how most of the youth are earning and sustaining,” he said.

MB Subba