We are not hiding any numbers: PM

Prime Minister, Tshering Tobgay, said, the 14th labour force survey report (LFSR) for 2016-2017 would not be published to avoid having three different employment figures.

Instead, the government would wait for the Bhutan Living Standard Survey (BLSS) 2017 report to consider the employment figures, the prime minister said at the meet the press session yesterday.

Although the review on the labour force survey is done, lyonchhen said that the government would not announce the figures so that the LFSR findings doesn’t contradict with the BLSS and Population and Housing Census of Bhutan (PHCB) 2017 report.

“The review is complete but because in the area of unemployment there are three surveys in a year – LFSR, BLSS, PHCB, we would end up with three different unemployment figures,” he said. “If the unemployment figures are more or less the same, it doesn’t matter, but if they vary widely, then we should be concerned.”

Kuensel was told earlier that the ministry could not generate the report because of flaws in the survey. Labour officials claimed that they needed to review the findings of the LFSR.

“The PHCB happens once every after 10 years and regardless of what figure it is or how different it is, we have to publish that figure; the other figure is LFSR, which is published every year and then we have the BLSS, once in five years,” the prime minister said. “Now, which figure will we take.”

He said that going by the sample size, it should be the BLSS because it has 12,000 samples, the employment questions are up to date and in accordance with prescription of the International Labour Organisation.

The other reason according to the Prime Minister is that when the ministry presented the labour force survey to the cabinet, the ministry officials could not give adequate response to the methodology questioned by the cabinet members. The technical review team was set up for this reason.

The LFSR is published every year and gives the current employment situation. The 13th nationwide LFSR, 2015, found the overall unemployment rate at 2.5 percent. Youth unemployment rate was 10.7 percent and female unemployment rate was 12.7 percent.

“The LFS overall unemployment rate has come down, but youth unemployment rate has increased marginally,” the prime minister said. “We are not hiding any numbers but we’re just waiting for the living standard report.”

Labour minister, Ngeema Sangay Tshempo, said, the reason for not publishing the survey was due to issues with the methodologies, samplings, survey instruments, and the definition of unemployment, which needed to be reviewed. The technical review team, he said, studied these issues.

Lyonpo said the LFS started in 1998 based on the ILO standards but the standards were never reviewed over the last 20 years. It required a review since redundancies had occurred over the years adding that of the 6,000 sample size, 4,500 was in urban and 1,500 in rural areas.

“About 62 percent of people live in rural areas, so there was a need to look into this including the age category,” the minister said. “The employable age is 18 and above but the age group is 15 to 24 years in our survey, which was one of the errors.”

Lyonpo said the survey needs further study although the report is ready. “We would review and then conduct the next survey for 2018 with proper methodologies and samplings.”

Yangchen C Rinzin

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