Jobless in Bhutan

Great expectations

Great expectations

The results of the Labour Force Survey, 2009 has me worried: unemployment has jumped to 4%; and more than 80% of them are youth between the ages of 15 and 25. In absolute terms, 13,000 of the 325,700 economically active people are unemployed. And of them, 10,500 are youth. Youth between the ages of 15 and 19 are hit the hardest – 20.1% of them are unemployed.

So last week’s job fair was a good idea. It sought to boost employment by bringing employers and jobseekers together.

But, our labour minister’s statement at the job fair has me even more worried: He was quoted as saying that unemployment is not a real problem in Bhutan, rather it is the mismatch of available jobs and aspirations of the jobseekers.

I’d like to remind our labour minister that, mismatch or not, unemployment is already a real problem for many of our youth. Unemployment must be real problem if young men and women trek to the labour ministry everyday in search of jobs, and mostly return home disappointed. Unemployment must be a real problem if qualified engineers can’t find work. Unemployment must be a real problem if we expect our graduates to work abroad. And, unemployment must be a real problem if the very job fair that the labour minister addressed had about 9,000 jobseekers but only 287 jobs on offer.

Our government’s promise to reduce unemployment to 2.5% by 2013 is commendable. And it can be done. But not if we don’t accept that we already have a problem – a problem that is growing rapidly by the day.


Facebook Comments:


  1. O.L la i did visit the job fair and was so frustrated because all the pvt companies did have jobs to offer but one of the criteria was a minimum of five or ten yrs experience.

    Now my point here is how does a fresh out of university graduate get employed if such criteria are there. I think there is no point holding the job fair if such criteria are set.

    i really hope they change this so that fresh graduates like me get some opportunity to get employed.

    Hoping that OL does some thing about it la

  2. OL is right in asserting that unemployment is a real issue in Bhutan; at the same time Labor Minister is right in asserting that Bhutanese youth do not have necessary skills to replace imported labors. If we replace all imported construction workers with Bhutanese then unemployment is not an issue for immediate concern. The present unemployment is due to mismatch between skill requirement and expectation of job seekers. It is also understandable that labor wage has to be increased so that willing Bhutanese to work as labors can have adequate wage to sustain living. No Bhutanese is willing to work at the wage level paid to imported labors. Government has to think how to solve this problem.


    • @Thinlay

      Please help enlighten this chillip. Why do you say “No Bhutanese is willing to work at the wage level paid to imported labors”?

      Isn’t a wage from an honest day’s work, no matter how lowly, better than none, or worse, depending on your family to support you?

  3. DorjiDrolo says

    You are wrong anonymuse!

    Our youngsters (with full consensus of our elders) prefer to be on the dole from their family rather than to work and earn themselves.

    The best example is the recent Bangalore case where people who got job there to work for India’s Silicon Valley were discouraged by their parents and relative from returning to India.

    Parents and elders are equally at fault in the failure to resolve the unemployment problem.

  4. How I see things:

    1. Most Bhutanese study the same things – no variety in course offered in Kanglung and scholarships offered.

    2. Scholars are selected based on merit which is good, but weight should also be given on “does the scholar really have passion for the selected field”? The end result – mismatch of scholars and subject of study

    3. Lack of access to information: Bhutanese students must look for college scholarships abroad. I am sure they are, but access to information in Bhutan is very bad. For example, if I want to study say fashion design, one must pay and go out to study because we don’t have a fashion college. That is fine, but how our government help students to find funds and the right college is my question. My suggestions would be, to open a facility where students have access to free internet to browse, where students can find materials like college prospectus, information on scholarships, etc to allow them to focus in getting the right course and outside funding

    3. The society – my father would prefer me to stay at home and watch television rather than see me work as a peon because he has the money to look after my needs and above all, it will bring shame to his family if I , a graduate, work as a peon. If we Bhutanese appreciate small skills sets that can be learnt even as being peon, things would be better. The truth is that, we Bhutanese have very poor work ethics.

    4. Government should allow scholar to stay and work for few years before coming back to Bhutan. Doesn’t matter where you study, I believe that fresh college doesn’t bring much in terms of skills and knowledge. What government can do is have deals with foreign companies to at least take Bhutanese students an intern. Sign contract with scholars to work but to return to Bhutan after few years of work experience. To make their image clean and for the sake of corporate social responsibilities, many big corporations are willing to corporate with small and developing countries by giving work opportunities to students from such country. Professions like accountants and doctors needs work experience and training before coming back to Bhutan. This is because Bhutan does not have such training facilities and also does not challenge professionals in a competitive environment. Chinese government are smart – they encourage students to stay abroad and learn the skill sets. Now these Chinese students who worked for firms like Google are going back to China mostly as entrepreneurs.
    5. Final note – if I am the PM , I will get foreign audit firms such as pricewaterhouse cooper to work in Bhutan for few years, train the Bhutanese and show how hard people work in the developed world. I choose audit because there are so many money laundering happening in Bhutan and also most big companies pay very little tax. By keeping eye on companies account, the government can raise proper corporate taxes and us that to fund new business ventures that are often neglected in Bhutan. Small and medium private enterprise is a must in any kind of economy model that wants to see no unemployment.

  5. Unemployment is a problem among our youth yet the other fact we have to face is as long as these youth have their extended family members supporting them to live and eat…they will not embrace the jobs done by foreign workers. The soceity is designed in such a way that a job seeker is not yet pushed too far wherein they take up whatever is available. BUT again, the young do get driven by fancy consumer goods available that they could resort to easy means of having them…hence the crime rate et al. And, the other issue here is do we want out youth to take up such jobs (construction jobs)? if yes? how do we make them attractive to make these jobs decent enough so that all our youth are employed and happy. The problem here is multifaceted…and needs serious thinking by people who can make a difference. Therefore, unemployment is a real problem…we may not feel it right now but the implications it will bring about in our soceity might be unmanageable if we dont act NOW!

  6. Maybe the unemployed lot should walk into the Labour ministry and knock some sense into the honourable minister for he seems to be blissfully unaware or deliberately ignorant about issues he ought to be thorough at.
    Unemployment is a problem. The biggest problem Bhutan is faced with. Acknowledging, which OL did graciously, is good enough. But not everything. That’s not the solution. The solution is getting every unemployed a job, a livelihood and a reason-to be proud and happy citizens.
    Easier said than done though. But if we can’t find ways now, maybe we won’t do it in the future as the problem would keep mounting.
    Private sector is an option, has always been the option. Revamp it. The government can do it. They are meant to do it. get more youngsters into the private sector. For which the pay needs to be attractive, there should be better incentives and above all, security-which of course is what the civil service provides and Bhutanese families crave for. The mind set must change.
    Encourage blue collar job. Espouse dignity of labour. But how far and for how long? I would not do a dirty job for a measly Nu 3000 a month that would not even be enough to pay the house rents in Thimphu. Forget about having a life?
    Dignity is about having a job that can fulfil your dreams, not just the basic needs. Pay me good money, i will sweep your roads, clean your drains, construct your house, do you bidding! It’s about money. Then dignity!
    Maybe i am a little on the radical side, but i wish, the unemployed youth should come out, form a union, and demonstrate! Otherwise, the government won’t do nothing! Revolution!

    • Wow.

      There is no dignity in sweeping roads, cleaning drains, and building houses. And there is dignity in sitting around do nothing, and putting your hand out for food and money from your family?

      And if there is good enough money, will you cheat and steal?

      • Poor mental ethic
        i see job where ‘need’ is achieved with dignity and through hardwork

  7. It is a problem and agree with what Kinley has to say

  8. “Youth between the ages of 15 and 19 are hit the hardest – 20.1% of them are unemployed”.

    Aren’t boys and girls in this category supposed to be in schools or colleges? Does it mean that dropouts make major chunk of job seekers?

    mismatch between available jobs and aspirations of job seekers? Aren’t we trapped in experience trap? majority of available jobs requires experience and how do we assume job seekers to be experienced?

    would private sector be a solution? or Bhutanese talents working abroad? or invite FDI, create employment and kill our private sector? encouragement for blue collar jobs and dignity of labour as well self employment has been there since i was a kid, did it really work?

    our government as always has an ambitious target set to reduce unemployment t0 2.5%, theoretically smart, practically unproven.
    how can we solve unemployment problem, when number of job seekers entering the job market are by large higher than new jobs being created. there would be more questions than answers??

  9. My comments were not published …. did i say something wrong 🙁

  10. Hi there..
    Went through the post and the replies. I am not sure whether the governement tried Self Help groups there…? Do you have Micro Finance in Bhuttan..? It works in India.
    The governement can definitely invite good educatinal institutions to Bhuttan from around the world.

  11. hw would anyone have experience if they keep requirements of 5 or 10 yrs experience. Everyone starts with their first experience, so i think they should not have such requirements if they really mean to offer jobs!

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