224 left the civil service voluntarily in two years

KP Sharma

Nidup was a young happy university graduate when he passed the civil service entrance examinations and secured a spot to pursue a Post Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) last year.

However, he abruptly changed his plans and withdrew from the diploma course to go abroad. Currently residing in Australia, he said the decision was made after realizing that many of his relatives of the same age were pursuing opportunities abroad.

Reflecting on his unexpected journey, Nidup said that he had never thought or had a plan to work abroad. With Nidup, are his four friends from the same class working abroad.

Despite the financial obligations that could come to hundreds of thousands of Ngultrums, Lhamo, 27, left her teaching profession just a year after joining it.

She sounds disgruntled and complains of the “system.”

Having settled in Australia as a dependent to a student, Lhamo claims frequent changes in rules and policies, questioning both the reasons behind these changes and the individuals responsible for implementing them.

Seven classmates were appointed at the same time and are currently in Australia.

Once a coveted job, the civil service is continuously seeing civil servants leave the profession with some withdrawing from training or discontinuing training midway.

Records maintained by the Royal Civil Service Commission show that 240 civil servants exited the civil service within the first year of their appointment in 2022 and 2023.

Of the total, 224 individuals resigned voluntarily, while 16 individuals canceled their appointments before officially joining the service.

A vast majority, 112, were from the teaching profession.

While working abroad is considered a more attractive opportunity, many who have left complain about their inability to work effectively within the civil service.

Asked if they regret their decision following the government’s salary rise, a majority of them said that increased pay alone is insufficient to motivate individuals within the system.

These departees cite factors contributing to their disillusionment, including unprofessional supervisors, workplace favouritism and nepotism, and heavy workloads with inadequate incentives.

Some raise concerns about insecurity prevailing within the civil service, particularly due to the introduction of new policies.

They allege that the authorities do not involve civil servants in the process of formulating new rules and instead, a few decision-makers dictate the course of action without consulting their subordinates.

They also claim that policies driven by a few individuals result in bad implementation and lead to an unproductive and suffocating work environment where superiors pressurize the employees to meet the official targets at the end.

“How can the employers expect to achieve the targets when everything changes without the employees’ awareness?” questions one of the former civil servants.

At his office in Thimphu, Tshering is surrounded by empty chairs. “It is distracting seeing the empty chairs and when most of the conversation among those left revolves around similar plans,” he said.

To compensate for the lost hours and cover up his work, he carries his work home.

A teacher claimed that he is compelled to teach three different grade levels to ensure the classes are not hampered by the departure of a colleague.

“I am forced to teach three levels because there are only two teachers available for this subject.”

He added that preparing lesson plans for each level and having to worry about his class 12 students is becoming a challenge for him.

“I am worried that I won’t be able to provide the same level of attention to class 12 students as in the past.

The results they achieve in the board exams are crucial for my IWP rating,” the teacher said.

The pressure and the burden on the civil servants are evident from the number of civil servants who have exited the civil service over the years.

According to the annual report of the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) for 2022- 2023, there has been a striking trend, with the attrition rate surging up to 16 percent between July 2022 and June 2023.

During this period, 4,822 civil servants left their positions, with 3,413 resigning voluntarily, 590 completing their contract terms, and 484 being delinked from the civil service.

However, the trend is not only in the civil service. Public corporations, state-owned enterprises, and even private companies are seeing employees leave after getting recruited.

Many are withdrawing from job interviews when told that they would have to sign a three-year contract, said a human resource officer of an SOE. “The topper withdrew after we informed him of the result,” she said.

“We found out that his visa had arrived even when he was looking for a job.”

Companies who resort to signing employment contracts said there are not many applicants when the conditions are announced. “One candidate even said in the middle of an interview that she wanted to get some work experience to go abroad,” said a Chief Executive Officer of an SOE.