Adequate rules and regulations in place to protect jobseekers

Employment: Despite several complaints against overseas employment agents, the labour ministry says the agents have improved their service delivery over the years.

The initiative of finding jobs overseas was new, and agents need time to establish their business contacts and partners abroad, the labour minister, Ngeema Sangay Tshempo pointed out to Kuensel, amid claims of Bhutanese jobseekers falling prey to employment agents and fraudulent overseas.

“We didn’t come across any incident of fraud or deception with regard to overseas employments placed with ministry’s approval,” he said. “All fraud cases reported so far are those who went on their own or through unlicensed operators.”

The minister said rules and procedures are in place to ensure that jobseekers do not fall prey to fraud and bogus operators. “We urge jobseekers to go through licensed operators after completing formalities with the ministry,” he said.

However, records show that as of now the ministry has received complaints from five groups of jobseekers, each comprising of two to five people since the overseas employment programme was started in October 2013.

The ministry has also received many verbal complaints against the overseas employment agents. The verbal complainants were however urged to provide written complaints, said labour ministry officials.

Most complaints were against overseas employment agents collecting fees before deployment. Some complaints were filed by jobseekers who were deported on reaching the destination country, while others also include those who were not at all provided with any jobs after reaching the destined country, officials said.

The government pledged full employment. The government then announced an ambitious plan to send 30,000 jobseekers to work abroad within five years. However, into its third year, only 1,432 jobseekers have found jobs abroad since the overseas employment programme began, according to the latest report compiled by the labour ministry.

“At the onset of the 11th five-year-plan in 2013, the GDP growth rate was 2.05 percent, and 30,000 jobseekers were beyond our economy, therefore, we targeted to send them for overseas employment,” the labour minister said on the possibility of fulfilling the government’s pledge.

“It was also to expose our youths to the realities of the world of work and make them understand that one has to work hard to earn a decent living,” lyonpo said.

“Unemployment is a problem faced across the world, and no country, as a matter of policy, encourages import of foreign workers,” he said. Understanding laws on foreign workers, kinds of skills, occupations and standards required in destination countries take time, he said.

“Meeting requirements of destination countries on one hand and taking measures to safeguard our workers on the other are hurdles in themselves in the placement of workers abroad,” he said.

He added that the government’s decision of licensing private overseas employment agents was not a mistake. “It is the responsibility of all to create job avenues to address youth unemployment, and we follow privatization therefore, we have recruited overseas employment agents so that concerted efforts can be made by the government and agencies to find placements abroad.”

Lyonpo said the ministry has been exploring employment opportunities in Australia, Korea and Japan. “Our embassies, missions, consulates and consul general offices have been requested to actively explore employment opportunities in their respective countries,” said the minister. “We have been exploring opportunities in India, and many jobseekers were employed there.”

Meanwhile, currently there are nine registered overseas employment agents, Lama youth employment pvt ltd, employ Bhutan Overseas, YARPHEL Overseas recruitment agent, Bhutan overseas Jinzai pvt ltd, best placement agency and I-ED jobs.

Two agents, Tenzu overseas employment agent and global recruitment overseas employment agency were suspended for violating the overseas employment agent regulation. Two agents, Druk Metser Ter (DMT), TUSK Overseas Employment Agency and Druk Yong Overseas Employment have not renewed their licenses.

Dawa Gyelmo, Wangdue