Bhutanese working in the Middle East raised concerns related to jobs the agent offer, monitoring and government’s direct tie with employers overseas.

Officials from labour and human resources ministry visited United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait and Qatar from October 3 to 21 last year. Overseas employment agents have placed more than 1,700 youth in these countries between July 2014 and October 2017.

Most of the Bhutanese are currently employed in the retail and hospitality sectors.

Bhutanese workers said the government’s direct link with employers in the Middle East would be better instead of routing them through agents.

An official said the purpose of the visit was to study and understand the situation of the Bhutanese working overseas, working culture and environment, and to monitor and evaluate the problems faced by the workers.

The team also met with all the regional directors of companies like M.H Alshaya Company in Kuwait, UAE, Bahrain, and Qatar, which alone employs more than 800 Bhutanese.

“They told us Bhutanese have made impressive contributions to their business and intend to hire more in the future,” official said. “Workers are also happy with the company and have not encountered any problems yet.”

According to a report, some Bhutanese working with Apple Bees Company, who went through Bhutan International School for Tourism agent, said that the employer made them work more than 10 hours. They were told that they would have to work for only eight hours.

The labour official said that the team discussed the issue with the agent and the agent visited the company in Qatar to sort the issue. “But the ones who wanted to return were placed through the ministry’s other overseas employment programme.”

A Bhutanese working with Shaqab Abela Catering Services, employed through Yarphel Overseas Recruitment Agent, said they were made to do other work than the ones specified in their offer letter.

The ministry’s human resource department has terminated the licence of Yarphel agent that illegally placed 32 youth in UAE.

While some Bhutanese have returned to Bhutan, others have requested the ministry to help them find them other jobs both overseas and in the country, the report stated.

Bhutanese workers are ranked second best after the Filipinos, the report states.

Yangchen C Rinzin