Phurpa Lhamo 

Contractors can expect the government to allow the import of foreign workers once the ongoing vaccination of children between five and 11 is complete.

According to Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering, while the government will wait for the situation to evolve, it wouldn’t take months before foreign workers in the general category are allowed to enter Bhutan.

He added that because of the Covid-19 current situation, there is a high chance of many of the imported workers testing positive. The international health regulations state that once workers test positive in isolation or quarantine, they cannot be sent back to their home country.

Currently, the government allows foreign workers in the expert category to enter Bhutan.

Before the pandemic, Bhutan had around 46,000 foreign workers at any given point in time. Due to the pandemic, the number has decreased to around 18,000 today.

“That means, we still need more than 25,000 people to go back to the pre-pandemic time,” lyonchhen said.

With the pandemic, where work has been delayed and many that are yet to begin, the required number of foreign workers is expected to rise.

Currently, foreign workers are brought in under three categories—manual, professional, and technical workers.

Lyonchhen said that in terms of technical workers, those inside Bhutan would be reskilled and up-skilled to take up the work. However, technical experts coming from outside Bhutan will not be restricted. This is to encourage and promote competition.

In terms of manual workers, Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said that the government would take advantage of the cheap workforce.

With regard to professionals, the government is currently revisiting immigration policies, and also the foreign direct investment policy.

Lyonchhen said that while there were plans to build green-technology buildings and other structures there were no experts in Bhutan.

Thus, for professional-level workers, the government is ‘leaving it open.