“Khandu-Om” is right

“Youth Unemployment – A serious concern for Bhutan?” That’s what BBS asked yesterday, on People’s Voice, a popular Sunday show. The debate was timely, given that thousands of students are now entering the workforce. But public opinion on this important topic was overwhelmingly one-sided: 733 of the people who took part in the vote said that youth unemployment is a serious concern; only 87 said that it isn’t.

My blog post earlier this month, when the Class 12 results were announced, drew similar responses. But one of them, by a “Khandu-Om”, put the blame squarely on me. Here’s what she wrote:

Dear OL,

Yes indeed it is worrying. To understand that the mentality and present perception of our present youth on jobs is a disgrace. A class X is willing to stay at home and earn “no income” for a year rather than to take up a free training in Culinary provided by the government and get a job in one of the hotels as sue chef which can get a pay of at least between Nu. 8,000-15,000 a month.

This type of behavior change should have happened years ago. This urgency of jobs and projected youth unemployment was known 10 to 20 years back.

So my Honourble OL where where you and what were you doing then as a “Director” in the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources. Why were there no strong efforts that time to deal with the known fact that 50% of our population being youth were going to enter the job market?

Did it have to take democracy to come in for you to wake up?

“Khandu-Om” is right. Before joining active politics, I served in the Department of Human Resources in the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources. The main responsibility of that department was to plan and coordinate vocational education and training in the country.

Before that, I served in the then National Technical Training Authority which was also responsible for planning and coordinating vocational education and training. And before that, I served in then Technical and Vocational Education Division again mainly responsible for vocational education and training.

So throughout my career in the civil service I’ve been involved, in one way or another, in vocational education and training. In fact, the three agencies I served in were essentially the same institution – the Technical and Vocational Division which was under the then Department of Education evolved into the National Technical Training Authority, an autonomous agency, which, in turn, grew to become the Department of Human Resources in the then newly established Ministry of Labour and Human Resources.

“Khandu-Om” is right. Youth unemployment was already an issue more than a decade ago. School enrollment was expanding exponentially, and every year, increasingly larger numbers of students were entering the workforce.

To prepare them for the world of work, we increased the number of vocational training institutes. We expanded the polytechnic in Deothang, and upgraded the Kharbandi campus to an engineering college, while the original institute at Kharbandi was established as separate training institutes in Rangjung, Chumey, Khuruthang, Thimphu and Sarpang. We relocated the Phuentsholing driving institute to Samthang, expanded the institute and diversified its courses.

We expanded the painting school in Kawajangsa and upgraded it to offer training in the thirteen traditional arts and crafts. And we started a second institute for traditional arts and crafts in Trashiyangtse.

Within a few years, we expanded vocational education and training significantly. And many people worked very hard to make this possible. They include colleagues, superiors, donors and, most importantly, the many instructors who had to take on additional and multiple responsibilities as their institutes were being relocated, expanded and upgraded.

But we also understood that vocational training does not and cannot create jobs. That’s why we consistently maintained that only a strong economy with a vibrant private sector could provide the gainful employment that the increasing number of school leavers would need.

“Khandu-Om” is right. Youth do not readily accept the jobs that are available. But that’s mostly because our youth have not been prepared for the real world of work. And because working conditions in the jobs that are available are not attractive. To give students the opportunities to work with their hands, we started vocational clubs in many schools. To allow school leavers to transition into the workplace, we started an apprenticeship training program. And to improve working conditions in the construction sector, we started the construction training centre.

But that wasn’t enough. So in 2001, we went on a career counseling tour. The tour was conceived, organised and led by Lyonpo Sangay Ngedup who, at that time, was the minister for health and education, the chairman of the Department of Employment and Labour, and the chairman of the National Technical Training Authority. The career counseling tour took more than four months. During that time a multi-sectoral team visited more than 30 schools across the length and breadth of the country. The team spent a whole day at each school, talking to the students about job opportunities and career options, and cautioning them about looming unemployment. My message to the students had been “Be Somebody!”

“Khandu-Om” is right. We could have worked harder. I could have put in more effort. Even so, I’m not sure it would have helped. The government, after all, has not demonstrated the will or the ability to improve on the vocational education and training system that they inherited when they took over four years ago.

“Khandu-Om” is right. Democracy has indeed woken me up. And I’m glad that she thinks so. But what about the members of the ruling party? What about the government? Has democracy woken them up to the realities of youth unemployment?


Facebook Comments:


  1. Kelpazangla says

    OL states, “So in 2001, we went on a career counseling tour. The tour was conceived, organised and led by Lyonpo Sangay Ngedup who, at that time, was the minister for health and education, the chairman of the Department of Employment and Labour, and the chairman of the National Technical Training Authority.”

    I am not sure how much has been stressed on career counseling, but I did hear a lot of stories about Lyonpo as the Health and Education Minister exploiting many young girls of the rural schools and communities during is such tours. Head teachers and teachers were promptly promoted or transfered to places of their wish when Lyonpo’s exploitation mission were successful.

    So Khandu Om is right, you were only a pimp member then!

  2. Kelpazangla says

    Happy Losar!

  3. Junior Engineer says

    We expanded the polytechnic in Deothang, and brought their cadre grade from previously IX to X….

  4. If strengthening the private sector is the way out of unemployment then we need to remove the restrictions and the bottlenecks that stop these young ambitious people from doing businesses. I think the future looks grim for them because they do not have a lot of options. THe government and leaders need to provide those options for them. We’v opened their world for them through education, now we need to take them to the finishing line by opening up how we practice business in Bhutan.

  5. This is exactly the problem with people like Mr. Kelpazangla above. I wonder why someone would write such remarks, some people are beyond redemption. The message our honorable OL is conveying is about unemployment, concern amongst the youth and what the Government should focus their attention to and not about some trivial matter which has no empirical evidence and relation with the issue above. So I think one should seriously need to think before what they write and be hard on the issue and not on the people.
    It is a matter of concern I totally think ”OL and Khandu Om” is right and I also agree with the question highlighted by our OL to the Government.
    In my opinion it’s all about asking the right questions as to how the Government can become more effective, swift and efficient in curving such issues. Only when we start to pose the right questions, Government then will be guided towards the right direction and goals.

  6. Youth do not take up jobs easily in pvt.sectors as they are lowly paid. The pvt. sectors show a handsome salary to the govt. in order to fulfill the expectation of the govt. but in reality the employees do not get what is reflected in a salary sheet.
    The govt. must ensure that a pvt. sector employee gets enough money to survive. Most of the job offers come from Thimphu and Thimphu is a very expensive place to live esp. the house rent, so how a person earning less than 15000 can afford to live there and work?????

  7. Tashi Delek is right in saying we must pose the right question in order to get right answers- although sometimes this do not work in the context of our many debates happening, people just go on saying what they can and not what they should. Is youth unemployment a serious concern? whether the question is answered objectively or subjectively the simple answer is expected to be yes. I cannot imagine who would say no to this question whether or not one comprehends the dynamics of unemployment and its impact on the society. But is the MoLHR/other relevant government agencies and private institutions doing enough to resolve the growing youth unemployment issues in the country is what we all must be asking to get the to point. We as individuals/agencies always question the other but not ourselves. Coordinated effort from all relevant agencies may contribute to resolve this issue instead of guarding our boundary and putting strain on the limited resources we have after all we are all looking at the same pool of unemployed youth.

  8. The O.L has informed us what was initiated to tackle youth unemployment almost a decade ago. If these initiatives had been followed through with the same determination and passion I dare say that we would have seen less of the problems being faced today. Khandu Om and Kelpazangla who is probably the same person have chosen to go on a vicious and unfounded path of mudslinging and personal attack. They should say who were given such promotions and postings and who were the minors that were so exploited. Come out with the truth as we would love to hear it.

    In my opinion a minister who has traversed through the rough terrains of the twenty dzongkhags and passed the message of dignity of labour and career opportunities spending hours with multi-sectoral task forces should be given some appreciation. From what we hear he is out of politics so ardent DPT supporters or workers need not be concerned.

  9. Good! You acknowledge that Khandu Om is right and of course she is right!

  10. We would be grateful if kelpazangla can prove what u have mentioned in ur comment n name some of the teachers n head teachers who got promotion for fulfilling the mission of lyenpo SN…otherwise please don’t misinform the people….because of people like you all…we are suffering…

  11. I do agree with many of you, who have shared your concerns on youth unemployment.

    Today knowingly, somewhere something is missing regarding the youth unemployment.

    The MoLHR and the Govt. says they are doing best to solve this problem with various initiatives, yet there is no improvement.

    Better be unemployed then earning a salary which is even not enough to pay rent.

  12. What kepazangla has stated is not mere hearsay as many of the OLs followers would like us to believe. The sordid details of the exploits of Lyonpo SN were discussed much more explicitly in the Bhutantimes.com forums which has since been shut.

    Whatever, such incidents of exploitation of our poor women folks by the high and mighty in Bhutan must surely must not allowed to be swept under the carpet. It is and should always be our duty to name and shame these people involved in sexual exploitation of our innocent girls, doing this with no let up would at least help in saving other victims.

  13. Reward the people with skills and increase the wages of the skilled workers such that even those sitting on the chair and giving orders now would willingly come down and get their hands dirty. Rest, market will take care of itself. I think we had enough of speeches on dignity of labour. Now it’s time for action!

  14. Interesting….. But OL got no suggestion for the agreement to the issue…..:)

  15. Well, unemployment should be a serious concern only if the government cannot create enough jobs for the job seekers. But, as of now, we have so many jobs being done by the non nationals simply because our youths do not go for it. The government can only create the jobs, but cannot force anybody to take it. So, I don’t think it is the problem of no jobs available, but it is the problem of youth’s attitude and ambition.

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