Falling unemployment numbers

Look at the numbers

Between 2009 and 2010, unemployment in our country fell drastically, and impressively, from 4% to 3.3%. At least, that’s what the government has claimed. But some experts have questioned the low unemployment numbers.

So I requested the labour minister for disaggregated data for 2009 and 2010 to study the reductions in unemployment rates. Two bits of interesting figures jumped out at me, as soon as I glanced at the data.

The first was that between 2009 and 2010 unemployment for the age group 15 to 19 years fell 13.6 percentage points. Unemployment for this age group in 2009 was 20.1%. In 2010 it had fallen to 6.5%.

Is that possible?

The second bit of interesting information was that four dzongkhags – Bumthang, Gasa, Trashiyangtse and Trongsa – have no unemployment at all.

Is that really possible?

The third is that Thimphu has only 2,600 unemployed people. To compare: Paro has 1000 unemployed people, and Pemagatshel has 1,200 unemployed people.

Now that can’t be possible.

But according to the government, that is possible. In fact, more is possible, because the prime minister, in his State of the Nation report, just announced that unemployment has fallen even further, to 3.1% for 2011.

Unemployment news

First the good news: unemployment has dropped from 4% to 3.3% and will be further reduced to 2.5% by 2013. The prime minister announced the good news in his State of the Nation report last year. The government reiterated the good news in January this year, during a review of the project Accelerating Bhutan’s Socio-economic Development.

Now the not-so-good news: the government’s unemployment figures have been questioned, forcing them to “… refute allegations that the data they used to indicate drop in unemployment rate for 2010 was manipulated”.

And finally the bad news: more than 6000 people applied for the 307 job vacancies that a hydropower project recently announced.