The government yesterday sent a high-level delegation to Japan after facing criticisms for inaction on the issues facing the “learn and earn” programme that has affected hundreds of youth.

“The visit is being made to discuss the issues in connection to the learn and earn programme and seek support of the government of Japan on these issues and explore other opportunities for Bhutanese youth,” a press release from the ministry stated.

Led by labour Minister Ugyen Dorji, the delegation which comprises labour secretary Sonam Wangchuk, Opposition MP Ugyen Dorji from Dewathang-Gomdar, and MP Dorjee Wangmo of Sombaykha, will be in Japan for 11 days. The labour minister will meet with the youth to understand the issues facing them.

On his expectations from the visit, the labour minister preferred not to comment. The delegation will meet with Japan’s Minister of Justice Takashi Yamashita and Minister of Health Takumi Nemoto among other officials.

More than 700 Bhutanese youth were placed in various cities under the programme by the Bhutan Employment Overseas (BEO) in collaboration with the labour ministry. 

Soon after assuming office in November last year, the government had said that it would send a high-level delegation to Japan. But the prime minister later said that the government had suspended the proposed visit, saying it would not be fruitful at that time.

Accusing lack of inaction by the government, representatives of the affected parents made a visit to Japan to understand the issues. The representatives including a private lawyer met with students in various cities of Japan.

However, the labour ministry has been questioning the findings of the representatives. The delegation is expected to share its findings with the media once it is back in the country on April 27.

The youth are reportedly facing harsh working conditions in Japan. Most say their earnings are not enough to meet all their expenses, including the payment for utilities and tuition fees.

About 100 youth are reported to have returned home; 300 more are expected to return on the completion of their language course. The students must secure jobs to renew their visa which expires with the completion of the course.


Bhutanese youth still admitted in hospital

The government and the parents have been unable to bring a Bhutanese student, who has been receiving treatment  in Japan for more than seven months now.

Social media users expressed sympathy over her condition when one of the parents posted the picture of the patient on Facebook recently.

The 26-year-old was first admitted at Wajiro Hospital in the same city on August 22. Following the diagnosis, she was referred to the Intensive Care Unit of the East Medical Centre from September 16, where her condition is still reported to be critical.

Labour Minister Ugyen Dorji said that Japan’s law did not allow the patient to be brought back to Bhutan at her present condition. However, he added that the labour ministry and the Japanese Embassy in New Delhi had facilitated one of her family member’s visit to the hospital.

He said the government tried its best to help the patient and other students.

According to the labour minister, the government bore 30 percent of the medical cost in Japan.

Parents’ committee members say they are frustrated with the government’s inability to act on the issues facing the youth. They say some of the youth are in depression.

“It’s time we did something about the problem. How long can we hide the problem?” parents committee’s president, Sonam Tshering said.  He said that no proper medical check up was carried out before sending the youth abroad.

The family of the patient should be compensated for the loss that occurred due to lapses on part of the agent and the government, according to the committee . The patient’s family members could not be contacted for comments. 

MB Subba