Although private sector growth is recognised as critically important to create employment opportunities in the country, Bhutan has not been able to make it happen in a significant way.
While close to 40 percent of the small- and medium-sized and 23 large-sized firms continue to face shortage of skilled workers, the nation is grappling with the challenge of growing youth unemployment.
Bhutan’s working age population is increasing just as the public sector’s absorption capacity is diminishing.
In an ideal situation, private sector should be able to employ more than public sector. Private sector should surpass public sector’s capacity to attract smart, brilliant and hard-working jobseekers by providing greater access to pensions and other fringe benefits such as overtime pay, paid leave, sick leave, casual leave, and maternity leave. Employment packages are important.
As we speak, Bhutan’s youth unemployment figure stands at 13.2 percent. And it is growing. Going by some estimates, it is expected that about 19,000 jobseekers will enter the labour market annually. The challenge we have in our hands is formidable indeed.
Studies have found that skill mismatch is among the main reasons that contribute to rising unemployment in the country. Employers are reluctant to take in graduates that our colleges produce. What this says is that our children do not posses the attributes to enter the wider world of reality. This means education, the way we prepare our children for the future. Our planners, policymakers, and educators need to look at the problem of youth unemployment from a broader perspective and get at the heart of the issue. Creating employment opportunities requires concerted effort.
Investment in education and vocational training institutes (VTI) is crucial. Bhutan has been giving special attention to these areas, but more need to be done. Education and training should be made relevant to the demand in the market. For example, a study conducted in 2014 found that VTI failed to attract significant numbers of students due to inadequate financing and the inability to overcome potential students’ perceptions that vocational training provided a “second class education.”
As the main driver of economy, private sector growth must be encouraged. Otherwise, problems like youth unemployment, which is growing alarmingly, could cripple all our efforts to make space for jobseekers.
Creating employment is not looking abroad; it is looking inside.