Employment: For the last two years, Tshewang, a university graduate has applied for 17 jobs, mostly with corporate and private offices. Today, as he interns with a corporate office in Thimphu, he is still on the hunt for a stable job.

Like Tshewang there are hundreds of other youths, mostly university graduates, who have spent the past two to three years looking for jobs.

A few days ago, when a reputed private company in Thimphu announced vacancies for posts requiring four graduates, it received more than a thousand applications. The majority of the applicants graduated in July this year, with others having graduated two to three years ago.

Only four candidates were recruited. The rest now have to wait till another company makes an announcement. This has become the trend in the job market.

“With no close relatives in Thimphu and coming from a financially challenged background, I have to survive on whatever little money I get from the labour ministry for the three-month internship programme,” Tshewang said.

Some of his friends have given up and even left for their villages failing to survive in Thimphu.

“I completed a three-month internship but did not find a job and am planning to extend the internship,” Tshewang said. “But I’m worried about how to survive without money till I get a job.”

Unemployed educated youth

As per the Labour Force Survey report 2015 the unemployment rate has been reduced to 2.5 percent from 2.9 percent in 2013. The total number of unemployed stood at 8,660 in 2015, as per the report.

However, despite a decrease in the overall unemployment rate, youth unemployment stands at 9.2 percent and is likely to further increase with thousands of educated youth entering the job market every year.

In July there were 2,734 university graduates registered with the labour ministry, of which 2,229 took part in the National Graduates Orientation Programme. At least 99 percent of the graduates were jobseekers, as per records with the labour ministry.

The Royal Civil Service Commission will absorb a little over 140 graduates for PGDE, 30 for PGDPA and 30 and 10 for the post graduate diploma in financial management and in national law respectively. Between 100 to 200 may get absorbed into the corporate and state-owned and private companies.

The rest will end up looking for jobs with another 3,000 set to enter the market after they graduate.

Looking at the demographic characteristics of the country, the majority of the population will be in their prime working ages in the near future, as per the labour ministry’s cross-sectional study, Micro-characteristics of Youth Unemployment in Bhutan.

The study states that between 2013 and 2018, a total of 147,000 job seekers are expected to enter the labour market and if these job seekers are not provided with jobs, a heavy social and economic cost would incur, which could significantly affect the economic growth of the country.

Concerns are also raised about increasing youth unemployment leading to an increase in drug abuse and social crimes as reported by the police.

“Happiness is not possible if people are not gainfully employed and are unable to provide suitable and sustainable livelihoods for themselves and their families,” states the National Employment Policy 2013 of Bhutan. Hence, employment is conducive to happiness and the prosperity of the people, it adds.

Definition of full employment 

As per the labour ministry’s job portal there were a total of 30,723 registered jobseekers from July 2013 to September 30  this year, of which 19,411 were placed through the ministry and around 6,772 were engaged in various engagement programmes including overseas placement. The unemployed youth number around 4,540, as per the ministry’s portal.

Employment director general Sherab said as per the labour force survey of 2015, the government has achieved full employment as pledged in 2013. Full employment, he said, is defined as 97.5 percent of the workforce being employed, and as per the 2015 survey report the government has achieved a 2.5 percent unemployment rate.

“If the question is whether government has succeeded in achieving full employment, I would say yes, and it is proven by the labour force survey 2015,” he said.

However, the director general said the problem is within the 2.5 percent unemployed rate as it consists of educated youths.

He said while the labour force survey 2015 came out in December, between January 2016 and June 2016, the ministry conducted various youth engagement programmes and engaged between 4,500 or 6,000 youths.

Sherab said as the ministry responsible for employment, it has so far come up with many youth engagement programmes including internships and direct employment schemes. The ministry works closely with private and corporate firms, and since employers seek experienced jobseekers, the programme provides youths with experience.

When it comes to overseas employment, the director general said it is an option and not a goal. Every individual has the right to find jobs anywhere preferred, he said, and that at the moment they are looking overseas only as an option.

The director general said it is difficult to say there are no jobs because the ministry has come across issues where educated youths opt for official posts, and do not want to take average- or low-paying jobs. In other cases, he said educated youths were not keen to take up programmes initiated by the ministry, which if the youths could dedicated work at could help them obtain a good career in future.

There were issues, where some jobseekers have left their contract employment or direct employment jobs before completing the one-year term according to labour officials.

In the meanwhile, officials said the ministry is planning to come up with a dynamic portal, where registered jobseekers would have to update their job status every three months. If the registered jobseekers do not update the status he/she would be dropped from the list. This is because the majority of jobseekers do not update their status even after getting a job, reflecting themselves in the system as unemployed.

Dawa Gyelmo | Wangdue