As we deal with the growing youth unemployment situation in the country, there is an urgent need to look at how we are employing strategies to address the issue, both for short and long term. While the immediate interventions that the government has come up with might look like the ultimate remedy, their sustainability is questionable.

If job creation is not sustainable, unemployment problem cannot be solved. If we are just looking at short-term adjustments, much leaves to be desired of our mandate.

This country’s population is very young. There are about 141,000 people in the age bracket of 15 to 24. Currently, youth unemployment figure stands at more than nine percent. As more and more young people graduate and enter the job market, unemployment situation will only worsen. If the labour minister thinks that youth unemployment problem has been exacerbated by rapid socioeconomic growth and development over the last couple of decades, solutions must be found, a workable one at that. Plans must be worked out to face the future challenges.

As if the problem hasn’t come to the head already, we can do without official commentary about what dynamics are playing on the employment scenario.

Going by some government stat, about 18,000 young people enter job market every year. The civil service, armed forces and government corporations are able to absorb only about 6,000 jobseekers. Of the 5,780 jobs identified last year excluding the usual employers, only 3,593 were taken. The private sector, being small as it is, cannot employ a large number of jobseekers. Also, the sector development is facing shortage of skilled human resources.  Developing indigenous human resources, therefore, has become critically important.

The real challenge today seems to be skills-job mismatch. Employers, particularly in the private sector, demand skills and competence in potential employees. Our young TVET graduates do not seem to possess these requirements. At the TVET symposium in Thimphu that more than 40 principals, vice-principals and senior instructors of technical training and zorig institutes attended, the need to improve technical education and standardisation of the facility and trainers was the highlight. It has been found that some of our TVET institutes are making do with outdated machines, which do not give trainees the necessary skills to meet modern challenges.

Rather than pursuing unsustainable employment creation like overseas employment programme, the government could consider updating and upgrading TVET institutes in the country. This could prepare our young people for employment in the future. Self-employment is possible only when employability through skills development is made possible.