Protecting employees in the private sector

In what is a welcome initiative, the labour ministry has met with drayang owners and convinced them to start the provident fund scheme for their employees, mostly young women.

No matter how small the amount is, such a scheme that is available for civil servants and corporate employees, will benefit the mostly uneducated women when they leave the entertainment centres. There are some reservations from the employees themselves as the job is not secure and salaries not fixed. But the beauty of the scheme is that it is transferable and employees can continue with it even if they work in another organisation, government or private.

The drayang business is a debated issue. Many feel the drayangs are exploiting girls who are desperate for jobs and come looking for greener pastures in the urban centres. Not paying them what is due could also be deemed exploitation as labour laws require that the scheme is followed by firms. Most of the women are not aware of the scheme and its benefits, and therefore are not keen on the scheme. With the labour ministry convincing both employers and employees, it is a good move.

Like the drayang employees, many working for private firms are not aware of the scheme. And employers, even if aware of the labour laws, are not so keen on implementing it as it would cost them. A good example is a reporter who realised it only when he went to cover the meeting between labour officials and the drayang owners yesterday.

The law is crystal clear, what is lacking is implementation. The department reacts to complaints, but that is not being proactive. There are only a handful of firms, apart from the big private companies, that follow the law. Left to the profit-oriented private sector, the employee’s welfare is perhaps last on their priority list. To be fair, if authorities concerned are not strict on implementing laws passed by the Parliament, people will side step them easily. Today, we are talking about people fine-tuning tricks to bypass the most stringent rules and regulations.

If mentoring and monitoring is missing, more people are exposed to exploitation. This is particularly true with jobseekers outnumbering opportunities in all sectors. Employers will sacrifice staff welfare for profitability when jobseekers are desperate and willing to work for a meagre salary.

It is here that state intervention to ensure that the worker’s welfare is protected is required. This becomes more relevant as jobseekers are encouraged to look for jobs outside the civil service. If the private sector is attractive, more people will be encouraged to go private rather than seek a government job.

New industries, both service and manufacturing will develop as thousands of Bhutanese youth are brought into the job market. If labour laws can help workers get over the insecurity and poor conditions that they always complain about, it will also help the government ease the unemployment problem.

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