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Govt’s and Opposition’s take on unemployment

At the Meet the Press on July 30, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said that there were many vacancies than takers.

Four state-owned enterprises (SOEs) had employed more than 400 people, said Agriculture Minister Yeshey Dorji. “As per FCBL’s mandate they need to establish offices at gewog level which is expected to employ more people.”

Highlighting the preference of youth, Labour Minister Ngeema Sangay Tshempo said that there always was a debate on remuneration as youth tend to prefer jobs in corporate and government sectors. “Youth’s job preference was known to be due to the security.”

With the labour ministry’s efforts alone, about 600 youth were encouraged to take up jobs in cottage and small industries (CSIs), he said.

He said that the 2016 national work survey revealed that youth were required in tourism, construction, and production sectors.

Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay said that the government support with initial salary for job seekers was not limited to government sector. “It is available for private companies too, which can create job opportunities for the Bhutanese workers.”

Lyonpo Ngeema Sangay Tshempo said that there was budget utilisation plan, which the Parliament halved. “We have to ensure that those people who were continuing with their contracts had to be paid till it was over.”

He said that almost about 5,000 jobseekers were remunerated through the programme.

Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay said that although the facility was stopped for new jobseekers, those who are in the job are being paid. In addition to the remuneration, he said that self-employment skyrocketed mostly because of Rural Enterprise Development Corporation Limited. “Youth have started their own businesses. Almost about 1,600 youth are returning to farms with the government’s support.”

With the land user right programme, many more will return to farms, he added.

Economic Affairs Minister Lekey Dorji said that trade licence registration increased to 55,000 today from 22,331 in 2013. “Mindset of youth is also changing as most youth are interested in businesses.”

He said that the hydropower sector employed about 12,727 Bhutanese although according to the 11th Plan about 10,000 nationals had to be employed.

However, opposition MP Dorji Wangdi said that the People Democratic Party’s  (PDP) 100 percent employment failed and the aim to send 30,000 employees abroad remained largely unfulfilled. “The quality of employment deteriorated as many people were recruited on a consolidated basis.”

Most of the jobs such as matrons, wardens, and lab assistants were not secure, he said. According to the International Labour Organisation this is defined as non-standard employment.

Dorji Wangdi said that youth not taking the available jobs was due to job-skills mismatch. “In our situation, we have more general graduates than the technical. The focus was missed and a huge opportunity was lost to redesign the education policy in this government’s tenure.”

He emphasised on the need to diversify technical and vocational training to create quality jobs.

Opposition MP Rinzin Jamtsho said that the fact that the number of jobseekers was increasing by the year gave lie to the government’s claim that there were more jobs than takers.

He said that youth unemployment was at 23.3 percent, which translated to about 23 unemployed per 100 youth.

Skills training needed to be given more emphasis, he said. “Other associated problems also need to be addressed such as the lack of dignity and status. People are unwilling to take up blue-collar jobs.”

Services industry was suffering from lack of coherence, he said, adding that policies concerning tourism and hotel industries ought to be harmonised.

Opposition MP Nidup Zangpo said the least the labour ministry could have done was to publish  the labour force survey report.

“It is the sheer responsibility of the ministry to put our youth on toes to get and seek those jobs,” he said.

Rinchen Zangmo

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