Rajesh Rai  | Phuentsholing

Eighteen-year-old Tshering Norbu and his brother recently gifted their parents a washing machine worth more than Nu 13,000.

It was from their savings as day labourers at the mini dry port in Phuentsholing.

Earlier, day labourers from across the border scrambled at the port loading and unloading goods that hundreds of trucks brought to the port. However, the Covid-19 pandemic closed the gates for foreign workers that resulted in a labour shortage in the commercial hub.

Today, youth, who are mostly jobless, have taken up the arduous blue-collar jobs.

Tshering Norbu, a Class XII graduate, was working at BPC as a day labourer before he began working at the mini port. There are eight other Class XII graduates with him working as a team.

They charge around Nu 1,200 to Nu 1,500 for loading or unloading a bolero pickup. In total, daily, the team earns anywhere from Nu 12,000 to Nu 28,000. At the day’s end, the group divide what they make. They work from 9am until 10pm.

Tenzin Tshela, 18, another Class XII graduate in the group said he has saved Nu 21,000 in the bank and has at least Nu 5,000 in hand.

“This has happened within two weeks,” he said.

Zimdra Impex, a departmental store in the heart of the town, has also found workforce among the youth.

Roshan Biswa, 21 and Vishal Subba, 18 work in the shop and ferry rice bags. They earn Nu 400 a day. Customers also pay them extra for ferrying the rice bags to their cars.

“I was doing nothing at home,” Roshan, Class XII graduate said, adding that the job, although tiring, was quite an experience.

“I am happy.”

Vishal Subba, 18, who is in Class XII said he was getting bored at home. After the studies, online, he had nothing to do.

“I am working here and still manage to study. My parents have no problem,” he said.

Meanwhile, all these youths are engaged in the jobs by the regional labour office in Phuentsholing. Today, about 150 have registered and are working in different places.

The labour office is also planning to engage 16 drayang employees, all women who became jobless after their centre closed due to restrictions following Covid-19, as parking fee collectors. Currently, there are no parking fee collectors and cars park for free.

Seven drayang workers were employed at the sewerage treatment plant, while another three placed in the hospital.

Phuentsholing also had just two barbershops open until a few days ago as most barbers were from across the border. On April 14, the labour office has employed two men in Jigme’s Salon at Deki Lane.

The salon had employed a barber from across the border, and it remained closed after the lockdown. Yesterday, five clients were waiting for their turn at Jigme’s Salon.

One of the clients, Rinchen Khandu, said it took him a week to cut his hair at a salon.

“I have been to the other two salons, but it was a long queue, and I gave up,” he said, adding that he was taken by surprise when he was given a token and asked to wait.

The hairdresser, Nima Wangdi, 25 is happy for the employment. Although he had the experience as a hairstylist, he said he was jobless until a few days ago.

“My cousin asked me to check with the labour office, and that is how I got this job,” he said.

Nima Wangdi, who is also a Class XII graduate, said he learned to cut hair when he was in school. He was with the haircutting club.

Nima Wangdi charges Nu 70 a person. On the first day, he and his partner saw about 20 customers. Yesterday, he alone had attended to 11 customers by 3pm.

Meanwhile, at the mini dry port, Tshering Norbu is busy preparing the vegetable consignment.

“I am just fine. I don’t have physical exhaustion.”

Tshering Norbu saves his earnings with his parents.