Thukten Zangpo 

With both Houses of Parliament passing the Pay Revision Bill 2023 recently, public servants would enjoy a historic salary increase between 55 to 74 percent starting this month.

As the main objective of this pay raise was to cover inflation, civil servants say that it would help them significantly in economic terms.

However, civil servants also pour down other deterrence factors for attrition—work pressure, peer pressure, lack of job security, and no social safety nets in the system.

A civil servant said that civil servants in the country were underpaid until now, and this pay raise would not make much difference in retaining them.

He added that civil servants were happy with the underpaid salary earlier because there was a work-life balance between job security and family life. “For now, if the civil servants are fired out of the system, they have no means to survive.”

With the transformation and tightening of the system, civil servants are being scrutinised from every angle to fix accountability and deliver more with more civil servants exiting the system. “It is difficult to pick up with additional work pressure.”

He added that the civil servants’ attrition rate has become like a vicious cycle—transformation forced the attrition as civil servants cannot accept the change in the system and attrition increased the work pressure for civil servants.

He added that the transformation in which civil servants expect to empower more people and be more friendly is not happening currently.

The current attrition is a problem, a civil servant said because more capable and those who contribute more are leaving the profession in droves.

The major cause of civil servants leaving the system was because of economic challenges, he said adding that at this time it came together with work pressure and peer pressure. “Civil servants those who stay behind are considered incapable.”

However, he expects that the civil servants’ attrition will settle at one point in time but it would be too late as the damage would be huge.

Another civil servant said that money is a leading factor because civil servants in Bhutan live a life of hand-to-mouth. “Pay raise will contribute not only to retaining civil servants but will also attract from outside.”

However, he said that it would not resolve the whole attrition problem, because the reasons for leaving the civil service is not just a money issue but also the working environment, the boss being over authoritative, favouritism, nepotism, and lack of professional growth.

A civil servant who works as a livestock extension officer mentioned his dissatisfaction with his job having poor working conditions, including excessive bureaucracy, lack of resources and very limited career advancement opportunities.

“I will remain a livestock extension officer forever; I can’t become a veterinary doctor, even though I am more experienced and can do surgery more perfectly than vets.”

He said that career advancement opportunities, work-life balance, and quality infrastructure would be job satisfaction for him.

“When civil servants feel that their salaries are commensurate with their qualifications, responsibilities, and the cost of living, they are more likely to remain in their positions,” another civil servant said.

However, he added that other factors that can influence their choices include career opportunity, workload and stress, working environment, public perception and job security including retirement benefit like retirement packages like owning a house.

Based on the Civil Service Statistics report of 2022, more than 2,500 civil servants have departed from their careers, marking an almost two-fold increase compared to the previous year.

The attrition rate experienced a significant rise from 4.82 percent in 2021 to 8.62 percent in 2022.

Out of the 2,646 civil servants who left the system, 1,538 resigned voluntarily or had their contracts terminated, 268 superannuated, and 475 departed after the completion of their contracts.

Similarly, the education ministry witnessed 1,130 civil servants leaving their profession, followed by the health ministry with 269 departures. Conversely, 1, 791 civil servants were recruited last year.