Under the Covid-19 circumstances, some are grabbing the opportunity, others are having to dig deep into their pockets

Choki Wangmo

Tshering Dorji has been working in the construction sector since early 2000s. After more than two decades, his experience has come handy.

For more than a year now, Tshering Dorji has been providing construction-related services like carpentry, flooring and plumbing in Thimphu, Paro and Phuentsholing. And he is known for timely delivery of services.

The Druk City Youth Services (DCYS) has employed 28 young people as electrician, plumbers and masons. They are paid a monthly salary ranging from Nu 8,000 to Nu 15,000.

After Covid-19, the number of people availing the services has increased. For example, when everything is pretty much at a standstill, DCYS gets a steady flow of clients asking for their services every day.

Tshering Dorji said that DCYS’ service charges were slightly higher than the Indian labourers because of living standards. “Thimphu is an expensive city,” he said.

For instance, DCYS charges about Nu 400 per square feet of flooring service. The market rate is Nu 360.

Tshering Dorji, however, said that there was miscommunication among service providers and consumers, compromising the quality of the services delivered which affected the image of Bhutanese workers in the sector. “The construction owners don’t trust our services and rather prefer foreign workers.”

In the future, he plans to recruit more skilled Bhutanese to diversify DCYS’ services. The country, he said, faced shortage of masons.

The construction owners, however, complain about hiked service charges by Bhutanese firms.

An owner of a building in Motithang that is just about half complete said that she was concerned about rising rates and sought support from the office of consumer protection and labour ministry.

“Labour ministry should look into such issues because by the end of this month the Covid-19 relief measures will end. There should be a uniform rate,” she said.

She also said that the service providers were untrained which could lead to quality compromise. “I think DCYS need more experience to carry out carpentry and other skilled works. They are also charging four times higher than the market rate.”