At a time when unemployment among the young is growing, there is a need to look at employment generation at home than resort to sending jobseekers abroad for employment. There is no denying young Bhutanese have the opportunity to gain professional experience and entrepreneurial skills by working at well-established businesses abroad, but it is important that we looked at a sustainable solution to rising youth unemployment in the country.
The argument that creating employment opportunities is difficult given the small and weak private sector is missing the point. Without enabling environment, for the private sector to grow and flourish will of course be challenging. But we could certainly encourage self-employment which in the long run has the potential to create more employment opportunities in the country. Entrepreneurship programmes for the young have been encouraging. Albeit small, the businesses that were born out of such programmes have led to job creation.
Two of the biggest sectors in Bhutan – agriculture and the booming construction sector – have failed to create jobs for young Bhutanese. The failure has not been because the sectors have hit the growth ceiling. In fact, the growth of these sectors has been completely overlooked without right policies. Only recently did we open agriculture to our young entrepreneurs by making assess to finance available. At the time when our small arable land is becoming less productive because of issues like fallowing of land and increasing human-wildlife conflicts in the rural pockets of the country, encouraging agriculture production on commercial scale could help the nation achieve its dream of food self-sufficiency and security. At the same time, it could create many jobs along the production chain.
In the construction sector, we have been recruiting huge number of foreign workers. Only a few young Bhutanese find employment in the sector. This is because Bhutanese jobseekers are not trained to work in the sector. Lack of skills has been one of the principal issues. The four TVET institutes produce about 690 graduates annually but we continue to face shortage of skilled national work force. At long last we have a National Construction Industry Policy which is expected to help develop the construction industry as a key employment generation sector by professionalising the industry.
Fostering the growth of these sectors is not challenging. A few adjustments with clear vision are all we need. There will then be enough employment opportunities for Bhutanese jobseekers.