… the mismatch phenomenon continues to burden the job market

Yangyel Lhaden

Three weeks after announcing a vacancy for an ICT teacher,  a private school in the capital city has not seen a single application. A canteen operator in north Thimphu had dozens apply for the post of waiter almost every month this year. However, his canteen is still short of workers after the recruits quit the job within a few days.

These are not isolated cases. There are more job vacancies announced than there are people getting jobs, according to the Labour Market Information Bulletin 2023,which is published yearly by the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, and Employment (MoICE).

There were fewer than 50 percent job vacancies compared to the number of active jobseekers, and even fewer people were getting jobs, with a 50 percent decrease in job placements compared to the available vacancies in the 2022-2023 fiscal year.

Out of the 26,164 active job seekers registered with the Bhutan Labour Market Information System in fiscal year 2022-2023, the Employment Service Division (ESD) compiled 11,387 vacancies, of which only 6,337 placements were made.

In the 2022-2023 fiscal year, the government/autonomous sector announced 808 vacancies, the corporate sector announced 327 vacancies, and the highest number was announced by the overseas sector, totalling 7,272. Additionally, the private sector announced 1,257 vacancies, and NGOs announced 42.

The report attributes the labour market imbalance to higher labour market tightness— the ratio of job vacancies to the referral flows—which could suggest a larger disconnect between employers and jobseekers whereby employers with vacancies find it increasingly difficult to contact relevant job seekers in the labour market.

Employment Service Centres and Regional Offices of MoICE carry out job referrals to help employers connect with job seekers, thereby minimising the time and cost of standard recruitment processes through referral programmes.

The country’s labour market tightness has been increasing over the years, rising from 6.2 in the fiscal year 2013-2014 to 12.4 in the fiscal year 2022-2023.

Of the 11,287 vacancies available, only 922 referrals were made with a majority of referrals in the private sector and 41.5 percent in government and autonomous agencies.

Over the years, MoICE has initiated several programmes to facilitate employment for the growing number of jobseekers such as the Guaranteed Employment Programme which consists of the Overseas Employment Programme, Skills Development Programme, Youth Engagement and Livelihood Programme (YELP), Build Bhutan Project, Entrepreneurship Development Programme, and GOWA.

In the 2022-2023 fiscal year, 2,063 job seekers were placed in overseas employment programmes. They were mostly Higher Secondary Education graduates, followed by general graduates and middle secondary graduates.

There were 2,556 jobseekers placed under YELP, and under Build Bhutan Project 362 individuals got jobs. BBP was launched in 2020 and implemented until June 2022. In 2020-2021, there were 1,390 individuals who were employed in BBP.

GOWA was initiated to address the employability issues directly and through skills development both within and outside the country. Since its inception in September 2021, 31  GOWA events have been held with more than 2,500 participants with 287 employers. However,  only 330 youth were employed.

The report also points out that the adequacy ratio which is the ratio of job placements to job vacancies has fallen from 1.4 in the fiscal year 2018-2019 to 0.6 in the fiscal year 2022-2023.

The report highlights that depending solely on the increase or decrease of the adequacy ratio is insufficient. Instead, it emphasises the importance of considering various factors, such as the quality of placement, including wages and benefits, the nature of employment (regular paid, contract, casual, or temporary), and whether the placement aligns with the individual’s academic or training background.