Yangyel Lhaden 

The initial excitement of a huge raise faded quickly when Build Bhutan Project (BBP) employees collected their monthly wage a few days ago.

Labour ministry on January 29 announced new wage rates for BBP employees which was to be rolled out from February.

The new wage ranged from Nu 25,200 for unskilled workers to Nu 32,000 for engineers with university degrees.  

An official with BIEBS, a private company set up with help of BBP, said that, other than a press release from the ministry, they had not received any official correspondence regarding the pay raise.

One of the BBP employees said that firstly labour ministry gave them a surprise with the news and now a shock. “When the news of pay raise was announced, we shared screenshots of the news with friends and informed our relatives,” one of the BBP employees said. “Look at us now.”

Some BBP employees made big moves for a better life, while some began spending more.

Chechey, a BBP employee, is worried.  She moved out of the combined apartment and rented a house.  She also bought household items on credit to set up her new home. “I have little hope that we’ll get a pay raise soon.”

Another employee with BBP, Sonam Dema, said that she walked home from the site as she couldn’t afford a cab. “I’ve only about Nu 2,000 as I gave money to my family back home and spent generously.”

Sonam Dema and her friend Sherab Lhamo appeared a test for recognition of prior learning for NC2 certificate in painting last month expecting higher pay raise.

Some of the employees are not disappointed.  One of the BBP employees said that he did not pay heed to the pay raise and was not disappointed. “The pay raise was too good to be true.”

Ugyen Phuntsho was laid-off when tourism closed.  He said that he was looking forward to work in the construction sector for a long time. “Pandemic made me realise tourism sector isn’t a stable job and pay raise motivated me further.”

Now, he is unsure if he wanted to stay in the construction sector when the situation normalises.

A craftsman said that he earned Nu 25,000 and with the pay raise he could have earned Nu 28,500. “If one is skilled getting good pay isn’t a problem.”

The labour ministry raised the monthly wage for employees of BBP in an effort to motivate, inspire and encourage Bhutanese to work in construction sectors.

Labour officials earlier said that to ensure sustainability and people’s interest to be in the construction sector for a long time the pay raise was one of many incentives from the ministry.

Officials also said that the ministry felt the need to increase the wages during the pandemic when the cost of living was becoming expensive with inflation.

Kuensel tried to contact the labour ministry but could not get a response.