Unemployment still a concern: Opposition

Assembly: While the term of the current government is nearing its completion, the party’s pledge to provide 100 percent employment still remains unachieved.

Kengkhar-Weringla MP Rinzin Jamtsho questioned the government on fulfilling its 100 percent employment pledge during the Question Hour session at the National Assembly yesterday.

In response, labour minister Ngeema Sangay Tshempo said that the unemployment rate has decreased from 2.9 percent in 2013 when the present government took over to 2.5 percent last year.

Panbang MP Dorji Wangdi, however, said that unemployment still remains a major concern for all adding that last year the unemployed figure stood at 8,660. He said at this time if the ministry surveys, the figure could be almost 12,000.

Dorji Wangdi said that the ministry has not been able to produce this year’s report although it was time for the 2016 labour force survey report (LFSR) to be out. “What we can presume from this is that the ministry  publishes the report only when the unemployment number slightly decreases.”

He said that labour force survey when it was first introduced in 1998,  was conducted in the months of April and May. The time series was followed until 2012 under the previous government. However, he said the present government has shifted the time series and now conducts the survey in November-December.

“Time series is important for the consistency and for comparability of data,” said Dorji Wangdi.

The last unemployment rate produced during the previous government stood at 2.1 percent in 2012. The overall unemployment figure stood at 6,904 during the tenure of the previous government.

According to the LFSR 2015, the unemployment figure stands at 8,660, an increase of 1,756.

Urban unemployment in 2012 was recorded at 3,241 (3.5 percent) while in 2015 it stood at 6,232, an increase by 92 percent. The youth (15-24 years) unemployment in 2012 was recorded at 3,475 percent and in 2015 it increased to 4,504, an increase by 30 percent.

Lyonpo said that the LFSR is produced annually in the month of December and the time series is in accordance with the ministry’s work plan. “It is wrong to say that the report is produced whenever the number of unemployment goes down,” he said.

The minister highlighted that only around 5,700 people were left without employment and the supplementary budget of more than Nu 200 million which was proposed in this session was aimed at creating employment for these people.

He added that around 8,000 people can be given employment opportunities within the country’s economy in sectors including construction and industries.

Various employment schemes and programmes has also been initiated to help curb the unemployment issue said the minister including the overseas employment scheme of the ministry.

However, Dorji Wangdi disagreed and said that creating temporary employment programmes will not solve the issue. “These programmes might help reduce the unemployment figure on paper but the reality is that once the temporary programme like overseas employment ends, unemployment will rise again,” he said, adding that the quality of employment is questionable.

Lyonpo Ngeema Sangay Tshempo said that the government has managed to create enough opportunities for all the jobseekers if they are willing to take up the jobs provided. However, the jobs preferred or sought remains the biggest hurdle in achieving 100 percent employment pointed out the minister.

Dorji Wangdi said that most of the job vacancies produced are for vocational and technical students. “How do you expect a general graduate to take up vocational and technical jobs,” he said. “Government has the duty to analyse the profile of the jobseekers and create opportunities accordingly.”

He said that although the government has achieved the overall full employment of 97.5 percent by the definition of the International Labour Organisation, it is not the same as achieving 100 percent employment as they have pledged.

Meanwhile, Drujegang-Tseza MP Karma Dorji raised the question on why teachers graduating from colleges of education were offered employment on contract basis and not as regulars. He also asked if the government has plans to regularise those on contract and extend contract periods.

Lyonpo Ngeema Sangay Tshempo said that a four-year plan prepared jointly by the labour and education ministries and the Royal Civil Service Commission is already in place for employment in the teaching field.

He said that they have directives from the Prime Minister to ensure employment for graduates from colleges of education and the ministry is working on it. It was also informed that the government was sending teachers to Thailand for employment and expressed that teacher unemployment was not a big problem at the moment.

With regard to several unemployed teachers, Opposition Leader (Dr) Pema Gyamtsho said that although there are plans and policies in place,  when a new government comes in, the previous policies are all overhauled, thereby creating more problems in the system.

Governments must work collectively and plans and policies must be continued for the betterment of the system, he added.

Younten Tshedup 

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