Unemployment rate is 2 percent down from 2.7 percent in 2012, finds BLSS, 2017

The consumption power of Bhutanese has increased by 82 percent in the last five years, according to the Bhutan Living Standards Survey (BLSS) 2017, which was released yesterday.

This means the monthly household expenditure has increased to Nu 33,542 from to Nu 18,367 in 2012. The mean monthly per capita household expenditure is Nu 7,939 where Nu 3,484 is spent on food and Nu 4,455 are spent on non-food items.

The BLSS 2017, which was conducted in March and April this year, provides data for socio-economic policy and planning, in particular for the formulation of poverty reduction policies and strategies. The report provides the latest information on demographics, education, health, employment, housing, income, asset ownership, public facilities, access to services, credit, and self-rate poverty and happiness.

The mean per capita expenditure of households in the richest per capita consumption quintile of Nu 17,802 is more than seven times than that of households in the poorest per capita consumption quintile (Nu 2,468) where food takes up majority of the household budget.

A majority of household expenditure on food consumption is on dairy products (19.6%), followed by vegetables (13.0%) and rice (10.3%).

The least is spent on tea and coffee with 1.1 percent. More than half of the food expenditure of households is on food items produced abroad and imported into the country.

At 25.2 percent and 17.6 percent, transport and communication and miscellaneous expenses comprise the largest consumption under non-food apart from rental value of housing (15.4%) and clothing and footwear. Miscellaneous expenses include marriages, rimdro, picnic, and recreational activities.


The unemployment rate in 2017 is estimated at 2 percent down from 2.7 percent in 2012. The unemployment rate at 4.6 percent is higher in urban areas compared to 0.8 percent in rural areas.

The working-age population is estimated at 506,611 of which about one third (32.8%) is in urban areas and two thirds (67.2%) in rural areas. The highest unemployment rate of 11 percent is observed in the 15-24 years age group of which 11.7 percent are unemployed female and 10.5 percent are male.

Thimphu has the highest unemployment rate at 5.5 percent followed by Chukha (2.9%) and Paro (2.1%) while Trashigang, Lhuentse, and Tsirang has the least unemployment rate from zero to 0.5 percent.


Literacy rate increased to 66 percent in 2017 from 63 percent in 2012. A total of 93% of youth (15–24 years) are literate against 60% of adults (15 years and above) while 43 percent had no formal education.

Both the Gross Attendance Ratio and the Net Attendance Ratio are higher at the lower level of education and 59 percent of the household heads never went to school. The literacy rate (6 year and above) is substantially high in urban areas (81.7%) than in rural areas (58.3%).

The primary school completion rate is higher in rural area, whereas secondary school completion rate is higher in urban areas.


The report found that 58 percent of health care expenditure around child deliveries was on rimdro or puja and in-country transportation (emergency and non-emergency) where 12 percent of all households reported sickness or injury.

A total of 69 percent visited a health provider. A total of 90.9 percent received antenatal care and 86.9 percent received postnatal care. 94 percent of women gave birth in a hospital or health facility in the past 12 months preceding the survey and on average, households spend Nu 3,838 a delivery. The total fertility rate has dropped to 1.9 from 2.1 in 2012.

The survey reported an improvement in access to improved water sources and sanitation facility where almost all 99.5 percent of households have access to improved water sources. About 92 percent of households have access to improved sanitation facility.

The most common unimproved sanitation facility in the country is pit latrine without slab (open pit).


Both rural and urban households at 71 percent own land as assets and 40 percent them currently have loans. About 77 percent have saving accounts, and the major source of household income is wages, or salaries and sale of cereal, fruits and vegetables.

On priorities that households aspire government to take action on, 44.2 percent of the urban people said job creation while 32.2 percent said water supply and housing (31.5%).

In rural areas, 38.2 percent asked for road infrastructure and water supply apart from hospital or medical services (19.6%).

The BLSS included 11,660 households with 48,639 persons in its survey. The sample represented a total of 164,011 households and 692,895 persons.

The median age of the population is 28 years, with children (15 years of age) accounting for 28 percent and the elderly (65 years and above) make up seven percent of the population.  The overall sex ratio is 94 males per 100 females and 48 percent of the population are currently married. 45.6 percent have never married.

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay released the BLSS. Highlighting the 91 percent antenatal care received in hospitals and 94 percent childbirth in hospitals, Lyonchhen said that this indicated a huge success for the health sector but works must be done to ensure that the remaining six percent access hospitals.

“With 93% youth literacy rate, it shows that despite the small base, our population is qualified and educated,” PM said. “The decrease in poverty rate is an indication of economic progress.”

Yangchen C Rinzin