MB Subba

A panel discussion held yesterday on “employment, hydropower and tourism” delved into the various aspects of unemployment issue when the country is experiencing a shortage of workers in the development projects.

One of the panellists, National Council member from Lhuentse, Tempa Dorji, said that development activities in many cases could not be completed on time due to a shortage of workers and that unemployment was a major problem.

Organised by the Centre for Local Governance and Research in Thimphu, the virtual panel discussion was part of the Biodemocracy and Resilience Conference that concluded earlier this week.

Tempa Dorji stressed on the need to promote Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) to meet the workforce needs in the country. He said that almost all TVET graduates were employed and stressed on the need to prepare youth beyond for exams.

Highlighting the issues facing the TVET, he said that there was no proper career ladder for TVET graduates.

Tampa Dorji also highlighted that development of hydropower and agriculture sectors could create employment in large numbers. About 80 percent of workers in hydropower projects, he said, were imported.

But he added that there was a need for Bhutanese workforce to develop their skills.

“When it comes to our focus on hydropower, one may argue that we may have put all eggs in one basket. But we need revenue for the government, the main source of which is hydropower,” he said.

Tourism Council of Bhutan’s head of tourism promotion division, Damcho Rinzin, highlighted how jobs were lost in the sector and pointed out the way forward.

According to him, about 50,735 employees were impacted by the Covid-19 in the tourism sector. About 12,802 tourism-related businesses and 159 three-star and above hotels were impacted across the country, he said.

However, he added that the pandemic had provided the opportunity to diversify the government’s support for investments in non-tourism sectors.

He said that tour operators could provide paid virtual experiences during the Covid-19 situation. “How long it will take for tourism to open is a matter of one’s guess.”

He said that the pandemic had given TCB the opportunity to develop infrastructures by engaging those who have lost jobs in the sector. The pandemic, he said, also provided the opportunity for Bhutanese people to explore the country and the pilgrimage sites.

Another panellist stressed on the importance of the dignity of blue-collar jobs. She said that there was need to develop the agriculture sector to create jobs. “Many parents do not want to see their children return to farms after education. This has to change.”

Tempa Dorji said that it was now time to reimagine and develop the agriculture sector to create jobs and to achieve food self-sufficiency.