Unemployment is one of the main focuses of political parties, according to the their manifestos for the 2018 National Assembly elections.

Records with the population and housing census, 2017, show that the overall youth unemployment stands at 2.4 percent while youth unemployment rate is 10.6 percent.

About 66,000 jobseekers are expected to enter the labour market in the 12th Plan, according to the 12th Plan human resource development master plan published by the labour ministry.

All four political parties have listed unemployment as one of the major issues in their manifesto and stated that they would accord the highest priority in creating employment and livelihood opportunities for people and ensure they have a decent job.

Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party 

Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party (BKP), which describes youth as the country’s future, promises to develop a National Youth Employment policy. BKP, the manifesto states, will provide access to credit for projects and business start-ups on merit of business proposals.

Providing skills to youth with appropriate level of education and skills to take on employment opportunities will be one of the main strategies of BKP for employment generation.

The party wants to reduce school drop-leavers to ensure that youth achieve higher level of education and improve their chances of employability. The party also believes that an enabling policy environment for private sector development and expansion would help the government generate employment opportunities.

Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa 

Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) says that it will accord the highest priority in creating employment and livelihood opportunities for people and ensure they have a decent job.

The party promises to establish an employment and livelihood corporation to employ, contract, create and manage employment in the country. The manifesto states that the party will support private sector to create 5,000 jobs annually, especially for youth, to achieve full employment.

The minimum daily wage would be increased to Nu 450, if the DNT forms the government, according to the manifesto. The party wants to reintroduce one-year national service program for all graduates to gain experience, understand national issues and plan careers.

It believes in making agriculture attractive for livelihood and employment through the Sanam Gongphel project, thereby motivating thousands to take up farm activities.

DNT promises that it will prioritise and allot the highest investment in employment generation and livelihood programs and establish an employment and livelihood corporation to ensure youth employment.

The party also promises to identify skills needs of the country and strengthen vocational institutes to create those skills. “We will create more jobs by investing in agriculture and manufacturing sectors.”

According to the party manifesto, DNT will ensure youth detained by law for substance abuse are considered for reformative measures.

Druk Phuensum Tshogpa 

Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) says that the government needs to accord the highest priority to youth employment and strive to ensure productive employment for all. “Given our rich experience and proven record in this matter, we are fully confident in fulfilling the objective.”

The key to generating enough jobs, according to DPT, remains in boosting economic growth and that the private sector shall be the mainstay of employment.

To achieve the goal, DPT promises to create a minimum of 120,000 jobs and ensure employment for all and to pursue the policy of regular employment and decent jobs for all.

Those jobs, according to the manifesto, would be created in IT and IT enabled industries, tourism sector, hospitality and hotel industry, hydropower, construction, commercial farming and games and sports among other fields.

The party also promises to revise Economic Development Policy to chart a clear path for boosting economic growth and creating enough jobs and frame a comprehensive Human Resource Development Policy.

The party believes that implementation of three mega hydropower projects would create a significant number of employment opportunities in the country. “We shall accelerate establishment of four industrial estates and build additional IT Parks in a regionally balanced manner.”

As part of its policy to generate employment, DPT promises to establish an agricultural bank and a public commercial bank.

The DPT wants to revise Tourism Policy and enact a Tourism Act to promote tourism as a major sector of employment. It wants to prioritise development of IT master plan for employment generation.

It promises to revise FDI Policy to attract investment and create large employment particularly in ICT, tourism, hospitality, agro, creative and green industries. Exploring membership in various international and regional labour and employment bodies would be one of the strategies.

The private sector, DPT says, will be provided financial, fiscal and tax incentives to private sector for employment of youth.

If the party forms the government, it says that it will support mechanisation and automation of construction industry and accord support and institute special incentives and privileges for employment of youth. It also promises to improve working conditions in private sector by introducing conducive policies and regulations for both employers and employees.

The party promises to promote easy access to finance for youth including access to loans without collateral. “DPT shall frame policies to encourage and support youth to take up agriculture and agro-business.”

The party will also prioritise games and sports as viable long-term career options through investments.

The party also wants to formalise domestic help service and support to professionalise the services. It pledges to provide entrepreneurship, life skills and leadership trainings to youth.

DPT promises to promote and expand overseas employment. However, it has stressed that such jobs would be high quality in fields like teaching and nursing, with proper policy and regulations.

If DPT forms the government, the party pledges that it will regularise the services of the current contract employees such as teachers, matrons, wardens, lab assistants, special sports instructors, assistant research officers, ECCD care givers, NFE instructors and gedrungs among others in consultation with the RCSC.

The DPT also promises to waive off or reduce security deposits required for studies and jobs abroad like Australia, Japan and Canada among other countries.

People’s Democratic Party 

The People’s Democratic Party has accorded the highest priority on creating employment opportunities for all. The PDP manifesto states that the large number of youth entering the job market is both a challenge and an opportunity.

PDP promises to come up with 11 special flagship programmes that it says will spur economic growth and create at least 10,000 jobs in the next five years. The manifesto states that the party will open a dedicated office to support every youth to secure employment.

The party promises to strive to secure employment to every youth through job placements abroad, creation of jobs within the country, payment for internship programmes, dedicated startup businesses for the youth and intensifying vocational training programs.

The party promises to provide unemployment and sustenance allowance for youth who have been actively seeking employment for over one year and support them through appropriate measures to get employed. This is similar to the unemployment allowance PDP had promised to provide in 2013, which the party did not fulfill.

Despite the PDP government’s overseas programme coming under scrutiny over the years, the party has promised to conduct a comprehensive review of the overseas employment programme and explore international labour markets and collaborate with credible employment agencies to secure well-paying and meaningful jobs for our youth.

Many youth who had gone on foreign employment have returned from countries including India and Japan, citing lack of jobs and harsh working conditions.

The PDP promises to introduce re-integration programme to be implemented by a dedicated office to facilitate jobs creation for Bhutanese returning home after working abroad. “We shall implement Direct Employment Program to ensure jobseekers are readily absorbed in the labor market.”

The manifesto also states that the PDP government would provide low interest loans to enable individuals to start businesses both in rural and urban areas. “We shall enable dzongkhags and gewog administrations to create employment through various projects such as small and medium-sized enterprises.”

The party has promised to improve social protection and safety net for private employees by ensuring that all salaried employees are covered under the Pension and Provident Fund scheme.

“We shall empower youth with disabilities and enable them to live with dignity through entrepreneurship trainings, provision of low interest loans and special allowances. We shall provide guaranteed jobs for students and graduate youth living with disabilities and youth with special needs,” states the manifesto.

MB Subba