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Cabinet to discuss overseas programme in Japan

Labour Minister Ugyen Dorji said that the labour ministry was in the process of reviewing the earn and learn programme in Japan.

“We have managed to talk to parents, the agent, and students. We have managed to gather the facts and have put it up to the Cabinet,” said the labour minister.

He said that the recent death of a Bhutanese youth in Japan was not covered by insurance. “Although the ministry is not obliged to do something, the ministry bore the expenses to bring the body home.”

Lyonpo said that the ministry also pressed the agent to report its findings on the situation of Bhutanese in Japan, which is provided in due time.

Officials from the labour ministry visited some institutes before sending the Bhutanese youth to Japan. The latest one was around June this year.

“Anti-Corruption Commission had already investigated the problem. I felt that there was no need for another round of investigation,” labour minister said.

Currently, the programme was suspended, he said. “I think that we have done everything.”

He said that there were not much employment opportunities in the country. “The only jobs available were the blue-collar ones in construction or agriculture sectors. For graduates working abroad was more preferable.”

Lyonpo said that the concern was to solve youth unemployment in the country. “In that way, it would not be right to say that it was not the ministry’s fault. The programme, when it was initiated, was with the best of intentions.”

Maybe the agent, the ministry and government did not foresee all the complications that would come along the way, he said. “The programme was proposed by the agent – Bhutan Employment Overseas. There was pressure to create jobs and to engage our young people. The ministry thought it was reasonable and that was how it all started.”

Lyonpo said that according to the records with the labour ministry, more than 600 out of more than 700 Bhutanese youth in Japan had not defaulted on loan repayment. “Of the 100 or so who could not repay the instalment on time were delayed by only about two-three months.”

The full picture of the problem had to be understood well, he said.

He, however, said that there was no rigorous screening system in the programme. “There are problems, but it is more today to do with people’s perception.”

The truth, Lyonpo said, could be in the middle. “The problem was about youth unemployment. We have the mandate to provide gainful employment but we do not have the capacity.”

Close to 83 percent of Bhutanese youth in Japan have no problem with the programme, he said. “We acknowledge that there are difficulties because of the work culture [in Japan], which is not familiar to the Bhutanese youth.”

Rinchen Zangmo

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