After withholding it, the labour ministry has decided to publish the 14th Labour Force Survey Report (LFSR) 2016.

Labour ministry officials had then claimed that they needed to review the findings of the LFSR after the technical team found technical issues with the sampling, survey instruments, methodologies, and definition of employment.

Department of employment and human resources’ director general (DG), Sherab Tenzin, said the review has been completed after several consultation with the World Bank, National Statistics Bureau (NSB) and Centre for Bhutanese Studies.

Sherab Tenzin said the review has clarified that there was no major error with the survey and that it was done in accordance with  International Labour Organisation guidelines and standards.

“The report is a good document and the ministry has also put in lot of efforts to prepare it,” he said. “Concerns were expressed and we reviewed it.”

According to the LFSR 2016, the overall unemployment rate is 2.1 percent, a decrease from 2.5 percent in 2015. This means there are 7,521 people unemployed, a decrease from 8,660 in 2015. The report stated that youth unemployment rate stands at 13.2 percent. Male youth unemployment has reached 16.4 percent while female youth unemployment stands at 11 percent.

However, according to the recently released Bhutan Living Standards Survey, 2017, the unemployment rate of 2 percent corresponds to 5,970 persons. Youth unemployment (15-24 years) stands at 11 percent of which male unemployment is 11.7 percent and female 10.4 percent.

The BLSS states that the difference in youth unemployment between BLSS 2017 and LFSR 2016 could be attributed to the sample size and seasonality.

“The LFS is properly researched and prepared in consultation with the NSB and ILO,” Sherab Tenzin said. “Yet, certain quarters in the government felt that youth unemployment was increasing despite various youth programmes initiated and that the report could be wrong. The concern is legitimate.”

The DG said that it decided to publish the LFSR since the BLSS has now been released and the figures were within the margin of error.

Figures would differ because the surveys were conducted in different period. The LFSR was conducted in December while the BLSS was done in March and April.

“Having two different studies would only show how employment situation changes every month and figures would only strengthen the findings,” Sherab Tenzin said. “We wanted to publish LFSR separately so that different studies could give different references.”

The labour ministry would also continue to conduct the LFSR 2017, which began from December 4, although the Parliament during a join sitting on December 6 had decided that NSB should conduct the labour force survey.

The house resolved this after deliberating the performance audit report on employment generation and promotion activities. The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) recommended that the labour force survey be carried out by an independent agency and not by the labour ministry to avoid conflict of interest.

Sherab Tenzin said the decision came after the survey had already begun. It is routine for the ministry to do the survey within a fixed time so that data produced is comparative.

“The survey is carried out with approval from the government but the next survey would be done by NSB,” he said. “It used to be done by NSB and later it was given to the labour ministry.”

He said that the Parliament asking NSB to carry out the survey does not necessarily mean that the ministry lacks the capacity. The decision, he said, was based on the recommendations made by the OD exercise.

“The decision to carry out the labour survey was made two or three weeks before and for comparative data, the survey should take place in the same period,” he said.

The survey is expected to complete by January 7. The survey has increased its sample size from 6,000 to 8,010 households in 20 dzongkhags. A total of 65 enumerators and 12 supervisors are in the field and it would include 44 percent of the rural population.

Yangchen C Rinzin