Thukten Zangpo

Many Bhutanese were not convinced by the high expenditure a household spends on average per month, as reported in the National Statistics Bureau’s (NSB) recently published Bhutan Living Standard Survey (BLSS) 2022.

The report found that on average, a Bhutanese household spends Nu 52,813 every month.

However, the report reflected the household’s income at Nu 33,844 per month per household. This shows a gap of Nu 18,969 between the household’s expenditure and income.

With an average Bhutanese household size of 4 people, the mean per capita household expenditure (per person per month in a household) was Nu 15,745.

On the other hand, the per capita income of a household member in a family comes to Nu 9, 648. There was a gap of Nu 6, 097.

For urban areas, the household’s spending was high at Nu 62, 435 per month with a household size of 3.8, and Nu 46, 316 per month in rural areas with a household size of 4.1.

Conversely, the income of a household was Nu 49, 896 per month in urban areas and Nu 23, 033 per month.

Explaining the higher household expenditure to income, an official from the NSB said that the household’s expenditure was higher than the income because of the underreporting of the income.

As per the BLSS report, the underreporting of income, non-reporting of wages and salaries, significant transactions in agricultural products in the informal market, and income from forest products contributed to the lower income.

It added that the consumption of home-produced food and food received as gifts, may not have been reflected in income.

An official said that only the employee’s monthly salary is included in the household’s income.  However, daily subsistence allowance and travel allowances are  included apart from salary in the expenditure.

The expenditure also accounts for the rent expenses even if the Bhutanese household lives in an owned house or apartment considering the equivalent rent in the same areas, he added.

“Even vegetables eaten from one’s own garden are considered a household’s expenditure,” an official said.

He added that the real picture of the income could not be included in the survey because some respondents do not know the actual income and some do not report it even if they know.

On the estimated population of 650,118 in the survey and the estimated census population of 770,276, he said that the survey considers the regular households and excludes the institutional households like foreign workers in hydro projects and expatriate workers.

“The census takes into account all the population living in the country,” an official said.

The survey was conducted with a sample size of 13, 416 households selected out of 164,331 households from the number of enumeration areas in the country.