Non- Bhutanese barber’s contract extension raises questions

Ministry officials say locals are not interested to learn the skills

Two years after the labour ministry approved employment for a non-Bhutanese barber in Trashigang, not a single Bhutanese has been trained.

The ministry, on the recommendation of the regional office in Trashigang, has approved the employment a non-Bhutanese barber as a master trainer at a hair saloon in the dzongkhag in 2015.

The approval, according to the ministry was accorded as a master trainer because the proprietor of Ugyen Samdrupling Saloon, Sangay Wangmo, had approached the ministry with a proposal to train Bhutanese barbers at the saloon.

In the recommendation letter of August 5, 2015, the regional office requested the chief labour officer to approve one foreign worker to encourage Bhutanese job seekers in the dzongkhag.

The letter stated that the proprietor of the saloon agreed to train a minimum of two Bhutanese job seekers if she is approved to employ a foreign worker.

However, no Bhutanese have been trained at the saloon so far and the non-Bhutanese master trainer has been operating the saloon on his own for almost two years.

The letter also stated that as the employment of a barber fell in the ‘closed category’ of the ministry, the office couldn’t meet the demand of the proprietor.

The ministry in its response to the employment of a non-Bhutanese labourer stated that any master trainer does not fall under the category of ‘closed occupation category’ and therefore the ministry approved a non-Bhutanese with the condition that he train Bhutanese on-the-job.

Although the only condition for the approval of the barber to train Bhutanese jobseekers by the master trainer was not met during the one-year contract, the ministry has extended the contract of the non-Bhutanese barber.

This, according to the ministry, was done because there were no interests from local jobseekers to learn hairdressing skills. “After the saloon owner requested for an extension of the work permit for the non-Bhutanese barber, the ministry studied the needs of the market and special circumstances of the employer to which the ministry had to allow a further stay of the non-Bhutanese barber for another year,” stated the ministry.

The renewal of the contract term has raised questions over labour regulations.

According to a handbook on recruitment and employment of foreign workers of the ministry, occupation such as accountant, typist, messenger, tailor, waiter or waitress, cobbler, baker and hairdresser among others are closed to foreign workers since June 1, 2004.

The ministry also stated that under special circumstances, some foreign workers are employed in ‘closed occupation’ category.

It stated that non-availability of Bhutanese job seekers with required skills taking up employment is one of the special circumstances.

The proprietor of the saloon, Sangay Wangmo, said it is difficult to find interested Bhutanese who would take up hairdressing. “With the help of the ministry, I have been looking for interested Bhutanese to work at the saloon but so far we couldn’t find one.”

She said that she got the approval for employing a master trainer at her saloon after requesting personally to the labour minister. “I was also supposed to learn from the trainer but I couldn’t because I have to look after my kids.”

She said that the saloon is her only source of income. “ I’m still looking for interested Bhutanese jobseekers.”

Younten Tshedup 

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