Now it has become a daily news about our youths and mid-level officials resigning and leaving the country for Australia, the USA, the Middle East, and other countries. The attrition rate ranges from around 6% (civil servants) to more than 10% in DHI companies.  Besides that, there are many on extraordinary leave probably most of them will never rejoin the office.

Considering our population size, and the limited number of people available in the market with similar experience and skills to replace those who exited the system, unlike other countries, the attrition rate of even 5 or 6% is a serious concern. So, we can’t just sit and relax by simply comparing with the attrition rate of other countries which is generally higher. In addition, it is also observed that many leaving the system are those in mid-level categories with around 5 to 10 years of work experience who play critical roles in either developmental activities or service delivery to the citizens.

This exodus will have a huge impact, both in the short-term as well as in the long run. In the short term, it is already impacting developmental activities and service delivery. Since we are terrible at maintaining data, it is very difficult to quantify how much it is impacting but it is very visible. With economically-productive age groups leaving, I am sure it will have a huge impact on economic growth in the immediate future.

In the long run, considering that the majority of the people exiting are from the mid-level category, there will be a competent leadership crisis in future as older ones resign from the system. Among those leaving, there is also a good chunk of people from skilled technical categories like medical specialists, subject-specialized teachers, engineers, experts in finance, human resources etc., which can’t be replaced easily overnight. Thus, we will have a huge shortage in terms of skilled manpower.

The other issue is, now many people abroad have started buying flats, houses, land and other assets which means they have no plan to return. Some have even started taking their old parents and probably they will never return. With the fertility rate of around 1.8 births per woman plus a highly reproductive group of people leaving the country, we will have a huge impact in the long run. We may soon become a country with an ageing population and in the distant future, we may even become extinct like dinosaurs!

All of us are aware of all these trends but what are we doing to address this issue? Not all are leaving for economic opportunities. It is emotionally very painful to leave behind old-age parents, siblings and sometimes even their own kids. There are multiple reasons for such exodus but, are we even trying to find the reason why people are leaving? Is there an effort to retain? Haven’t seen such analysis and reports. While many are concerned, some compare with the global attrition rate and take comfort in our attrition rate being less than the global rate. One of my colleagues left recently and the supervisor didn’t even bother to meet him. His resignation letter was signed like any other insignificant document.

My question to all supervisors, managers and leaders, be it in civil service or corporations is, I am sure one or other might have left your office but what did you all do to retain? All of us know that reforms are going on and the government is focusing on economic development so that people can be retained and make them return to the country. But there is a huge gap in communicating and messaging to our youth. Every leader, manager and supervisor should take that responsibility.

If it is a private company, and if one of the key officials is leaving, I am sure the owner knows the consequence and starts discussing & negotiating about the pay, work environment and other issues. But in CS and corporations, since leaders lack ownership, we just blame the system and ignore it. Many skilled people left the system but I really wonder whether there is one leader/supervisor who attempted to retain such people by taking them to the higher authorities.

Now I am sure some organizations must be already planning to hire skilled replacements from outside at much higher cost. Our old system of paying equally across the board should be changed. It should be based on talent, skill and most importantly, depending on the supply and demand in the market. Otherwise, in the globalized world, we will keep losing skilled people.

So, if we need to address the mass emigration and brain drain, we need to focus on economic development, there should be proper messaging and communication strategy, need to reform the pay structure, create a conducive work environment, and most importantly, give hope to our youths that there is a future in Bhutan.

Contributed by 

Jigme Tashi