Notwithstanding the controversy surrounding the earn and learn programme, the labour minister said about 80 percent of the youth placed in Japan are paying their regular installments.

Labour minister Ugyen Dorji in a BBS panel discussion on March 21 said the loans were being repaid irrespective of whether all the installments were deposited by the youth themselves. However, he clarified that it did not indicate that all of them were comfortable in Japan.

He also said that a delegation comprising labour ministry officials had earlier visited about 300 youth in various cities of Japan to study their problems. “The government has been doing its best to help the youth,” he said.

However, a lawyer representing the parent’s committee, Ngawang Tobgay, said he would not accept the government’s findings of the situation in Japan. He said that parents had mortgaged their properties to pay the loan on behalf of their children.

Ngawang Tobgay said the youth in Japan were risking their life and health in harsh working conditions in Japan. According to him, representatives of the parents committee who recently returned from a fact-finding tour in Japan met with 583 students despite some refusing to turn up.

The youth, he said were asked to fill up a form and that about 95 percent of them stated that they were “unhappy.” More than 700 youth were placed in Japan, and about 100 are reported to have returned home.

One of the BEO’s partners, Tenzin Rigden, said that it was impossible for the agent to deceive more than 700 youth. He said the BEO had carefully studied the programme before sending the youth.

“It’s too early to conclude that the programme has failed,” he said, adding that some of the youth were unable to cope up with the environment in Japan. The earn learn programme was implemented in collaboration with the labour ministry after a proper study.

Tenzin Rigden said that it was natural that a few would no do well given the number of youth. He said that there were about 80,000 Nepalese citizens in a similar programme and that it was impossible that all of them would do well.


Youth still want to go to Japan

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering at the Friday Meet yesterday said the loan deferment would help the youth complete their language courses without having to worry much about loan instalments.

He denied some of the parents’ claim that the loan deferment scheme would not benefit them. The youth, he said, could work for 28 hours a week in Japan while some could be working beyond that limit.

After paying rent, tuition fees and bills for other utilities, the prime minister said that the loan deferment scheme was introduced acknowledging the fact that students were left with about Nu 6,000. The monthly installment per youth with interests is about Nu 14,000.

According to the prime minister, the total interests alone that would accrue during the grace period would come to Nu 122 million. He said the government would be setting a wrong precedent if it were to pay the rent on behalf of the youth.

“We will look into all the packages. We will look into the modalities of sending our youth out. We will look into the understandings the government can have with the employing agents and the governments abroad,” lyonchhen said. However, he added that Bhutan should target developed countries when it comes to exploring overseas employment programme.

The government, he said, would prefer a government-to-government package. “We will definitely be allowing overseas employment packages. We will only enhance the programme, anticipate future risks and continue the programme.”

The prime minister said that six youth who wanted to go abroad for the overseas employment programme had sought an appointment despite the controversy surrounding the programme. “I will meet with them, and if they really want to go, I think I should not stop them,” he said.

The prime minister said that people often got mixed up with the overseas employment programme and the earn and learn programme in Japan. The overall employment scheme is not the Japan programme,” he said, adding that the government was trying its best to sort out the issues pertaining to the programme.

Dr Lotay Tshering said that the overseas employment in general was not a “total failure” and that youth still wanted to go abroad to work despite knowing all the issues.  According to him, some aren’t doing well while others would be doing fine.

There are hundreds of thousands of foreign citizens in the earn and learn programme in Japan.

The prime minister said that he wished that yesterday’s debate on the programme was the last. “We have had enough discussions on the issue,” he said. He said that the government could not afford to keep dedicating its time on issues relating to the programmes that were executed by the past governments in view of the need to take the country forward.

However, the prime minister said that the government would not be involved in the tussle between the BEO and the parents’ committee. “If the issue becomes a legal case and the court wants the government to clarify certain issues, we will be ready to clarify our stand and we will have no hesitation in accepting our responsibilities,” he said.

MB Subba