Bhutan is on the road to setting new records again. The education ministry declared the results for Class XII last week. A record number of students, close to 1,300, failed . They will now compete in the already overcrowded job market.
The country also set another record. The youth unemployment rate has spiked to more than 22.6 percent. This is despite a large number of unemployed youth being engaged in de-suung programme.
These are outcomes of the Covid-19 pandemic, as it devastated businesses and forced many working overseas to return home for safety.
Among those seeking employment are more than 5,000 Class XII unemployed graduates and 154 individuals who have acquired Masters or a high level of education.
Like any other country, Bhutan recognised that unemployment would be a serious problem in the future and came out with the Vision 2020 document. But that was 20 years ago. The situation continues to deteriorate as job creation efforts and the economy falters.
Agriculture has been shrinking, many literate youth are not keen on returning to their villages and the private sector is too small to absorb the many jobseekers. The public sector is saturated.
Build Bhutan Project targeting 7,000 jobseekers in the construction sector was one of the promising measures to address the unemployment problem. It has all of a sudden gone quiet. We need to know what is happening here.
We hear about an increasing number of free short-term skill-development courses for the unemployed. This is good but as the name suggests, it is short-term pill for a chronic illness. Many startups are struggling for want of sustained support after the initial help to set up the businesses.
Many are venturing into businesses online. This is a promising move. That is where the future of all businesses are headed to. The right initiative to enable such enterprises to thrive would be to offer cheap high-speed internet and ensure cybersecurity. Why is this not happening?
As our economy gradually recovers from the adverse impacts of the pandemic, investing in the private sector, mainly the small and medium enterprises, has to be prioritised and sustained.
That is building on our economic bases. Investment is all about looking outward, to the future. For a small country like ours, that means investing in youth and their potential.