Returning graduates

Since the start of planned modern development in our country, one of our biggest constraints to progress has been the consistent shortage of human resources. We simply did not have enough skilled and qualified people required to initiate and sustain development. So when our students studying in India and beyond returned home after they graduated, we welcomed them back eagerly. And we were proud of the fact that they – almost every single one of them – chose to return home instead of working abroad.

Not any more. Recently, 100 graduates completed a month-long training at Infosys. 37 of them were offered jobs in India. But of them, only 9 have accepted the offers. The rest want to work in Bhutan. We, however, want them to work in India. Lyonpo Nandalal Rai reportedly spent an hour trying to persuade them that they should “not waste such an opportunity”. And many of us, led by the media, have quickly cast them as ungrateful youth who are “shaming the country.”

We’ve stopped welcoming back our graduates with open arms. Instead, we’re encouraging them to work in India.  And if, for whatever reason, they don’t, we attack them. I am concerned.

True, unemployment is real. The government estimates that there are already about 13,000 unemployed youth, the majority of them between the ages of 15 and 24. But shaming our youth into accepting foreign jobs is not the solution. Instead, we should see them as a scarce resource, which, indeed, they are. And we should make full use of this resource to strengthen our economy which, after decades of modern development, is still largely dependent on foreign aid and loans.

Graduates who chose to work in Bhutan are not the problem. They are part of the solution. Without them – and there are another 1,330 graduates currently attending an orientation – it would be virtually impossible to develop the vibrant economy that we badly need.

The government is building an IT park, our first, in Babesa. This is good news. Some of us are concerned that the refusal of the graduates to accept the Infosys and Genpak jobs in India will discourage international businesses from investing in the IT park. The opposite may, in fact, be true. We can now convince potential investors that we have enough qualified graduates. And, more importantly, that they prefer to work in Bhutan.