The government’s overseas employment continues to make headlines. In today’s Kuensel, we have a story of some 30 Bhutanese who decided to return home from India. They are from the two batches of young Bhutanese jobseekers that the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources (MoLHR) sent to India to work in hospitality, wellness, and call centres.

Although the government’s initiative to ease youth unemployment situation in the country must be applauded, something is going wrong with overseas employment programme. Every so often, we hear about problems faced by the Bhutanese who are in the countries that MoLHR and consultants sent them to through the programme.

The issues they have raised so far include ill treatment by the employers, poor working conditions, long work hours, abuse, and non-payment by the employers. For women, safety and security in foreign countries is also an issue. Those who were compelled to leave their jobs and come home are now facing employment problem because they are counted as already employed.

Close to 4,000 Bhutanese youth are working abroad, excluding those who went on their own. The overseas employment programme may have helped the government cut the unemployment figures by much, but the initiative is not a long-term solution. According to labour records 2015, 85 percent of the unemployed are within the age group of 15 to 29 years. While we play with the numbers, unemployment, particularly youth unemployment, is growing. This will, in the long run, have serious social and economic ramifications.

We are told that skill mismatch is among the main reasons that contribute to rising unemployment in the country. Employers are reluctant to take in graduates that our colleges produce. What this means is that our children do not posses the attributes to enter the wider world of reality. This means education, how are we preparing our children for the future that they will face sooner or later.

Without looking at these issues first, tackling unemployment issue headfirst with poorly planned programmes will not work. Our planners, policymakers, and educators need to look at the problem of youth unemployment from a broader perspective and get at the heart of the issue with right and timely solutions. Rising youth unemployment will cost the nation dearly. We are already groaning under its weight.