Shortage of labourers hampers projects and constructions

Yangyel Lhaden

Iron Female Ox year-Labour: The labour ministry started the year of Ox with the news of increasing wage rates of Build Bhutan Project (BBP) employees in an effort to make blue collar jobs attractive so that more Bhutanese would join the project to address labour shortage during the pandemic.

The happiness was short-lived for BBP employees. Two months later, it announced that the pay revision would not happen.

Shortage of labourers and difficulties in importing foreign labourers continued to affect the construction industry. Efforts were made to recruit Bhutanese in the construction sector but it was not successful.

One of the construction projects badly impacted by lack of skilled foreign workers  was the ongoing Punatsangchu hydro power projects. Since the start of the pandemic many skilled labourers at Punatsangchhu hydropower projects left for their homes and the Punatsangchu management tried to recruit Bhutanese workforce without much success. Many Bhutanese left finding the work difficult, adaptability issues and working environment.

Technical and Vocational Education Training ( TVET) juggled between the labour ministry and the Prime Minister’s office (PMO). PMO handed TVET back to the labour ministry. The most talked about TVET reforms to make it attractive and change the way people look at blue collar jobs finally got approval from the cabinet on July 27, and is being implemented through skills development programmes and BBP.

There were 6,922 youths looking for jobs last year.

An outcome of the labour shortage was the initiative of skilling Bhutanese youth to both create jobs and equip youth with skills. 108 skilling programmes which started from October trained 255 youth jobseekers within two months. The ministry aims to train 9,000 jobseekers within two years.

The Youth Engagement and Livelihood Programme of the labour ministry has also supported 1,255 youth. BBP under its skilling programmes trained 2,717 youth.

Under de-suups skilling programme more than 1,000 desuups underwent various high-quality skilling programmes in about 45 centres across the country.

After more than a year, the  ministry resumed the overseas employment programme with approval from the Cabinet.  Until November last year,  139 youths left to work in 16 countries.

The ministry could not revise the government’s pledge to increase national minimum daily wage (NMDW) to Nu 450 last year. The ministry informed the public that it would depend on review and study of NMDW whether there would be changes in NMDW.

The ministry welcomed their new minister, Lyonpo Karma Dorji. He won the bye-election held in Nganglam constituency after the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa candidate died after consuming wild plant on April 18.

The incumbent minister, Lyonpo Ugyen Dorji was appointed as minister of the Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs.