Jobs: Although achieving 100 percent employment was not doable given the mismatch of jobs available and aspirations of jobseekers, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, yesterday, asked members of the employment creation task force to explore ways to further look into creating employment opportunities.

Following a cabinet decision, a special task force was formed last month to exchange mutual experiences and policy responses to address employment issues in the country.  The task force met from March 19-23 in Paro, after which a report on creating employment opportunities for jobseekers was prepared and submitted to lyonchoen.
Lyonchoen said the report pointed out over 6,000 jobs available in the tourism and agriculture sectors, besides listing other potential sectors, like the cottage industries and hydropower.  He also asked the task force members to revisit the report. “We’ll be able to provide 100 percent employment, but not all jobseekers would be willing to take up the jobs,” he said.

At a meeting with the task force yesterday, lyonchoen urged the members to delve deeper into the situation, considering several factors, like whether the government should continue to be the main provider of jobs, or share the responsibility with the private sector.  Opportunities for the government to create jobs and how the hydropower sector can be explored to create employment, besides self-employment, are also areas that the members have been asked to look into.

If the private sector is to create jobs, lyonchoen said that the economy must grow subsequently, for which there should be investment in the economy. “The task force should see how we can generate investment, and whether there should be changes in the existing policies,” he said. “The foreign direct investments (FDI) must be studied to see whether we invite more FDIs or continue with the existing trend.”

The labour ministry projected about 120,000 jobseekers entering the labour market in the 11th Plan.  To achieve full employment (97.5 percent) during the Plan period, an additional 82,000 jobs must be created to maintain the unemployment rate at 2.5 percent.

Labour ministry officials said in addressing the social and economic problems associated with unemployment in the country, the government had committed to achieve full employment.  However, given the sluggish economic growth during the past years, the desired objectives could not be achieved and in 2013, the overall unemployment rate shot to 2.9 percent.

The government pledged full employment for the youth and  to initiate a youth employment policy to ensure that all young people in the country get a job if they choose to have one.

Youth unemployment rate stands at 9.6 percent as per the 2013 labour force survey.   The labour ministry estimates that the economy would be able to create only about 42,000 jobs for the 120,000 jobseekers during the Plan period.  To achieve the target, the government has to come up with alternative solutions to address the remaining 40,000 jobseekers.

The cabinet then directed the labour ministry to take immediate steps to resolve this issue.

The task force comprises 28 members from ministries, autonomous agencies, non-government agencies, banks, corporations, Royal University of Bhutan and Bhutan Chamber for Commerce and Industries, with the labour minister as the chairperson.

The task force is expected to carry out desk reviews of relevant documents to understand the wide range of perspectives and practical problems of the Bhutanese labour markets and provide sound, practical and implementable strategies for quality job creation.  The task force will also recommend to the cabinet a well-designed policy and programme interventions to reduce unemployment besides recommending incentives to promote growth and create employment and identify areas of new employment opportunities.

The task force will also submit its views on the Overseas Employment Programme and Guaranteed Employment Programme and recommend strategies to enhance its effectiveness.  In keeping with the mandate, labour officials said the task force should also focus on a set of recommendations on policy responses to meet the challenges of stimulating job creation in the economy.

By Kinga Dema