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Unemployment and private sector growth

Of the many new challenges facing our rapidly changing society today, unemployment is perhaps the biggest.

And while we continue to make a poor hand at addressing the problem, the situation is fast descending into the darkest depths.

Because we are a country with one of the youngest populations—going by some well-placed reports, over 60 percent of Bhutan’s population is below the age of 25—there could be a sustained increase in unemployment among youth.

Currently, Bhutan’s youth unemployment rate stands at staggering 15.7 percent, or close to 5,000 persons between the ages of 15 to 24 years. And in the 12th Plan period, more than 60,000 jobseekers are expected to enter the labour market.

Putting ourselves merely on our guard, as we seem to have been doing all along, is now obviously not enough. The situation, which is aggravating by the day, demands that we find it in our heart to take some urgent actions.

The sooner we bring ourselves to it, the better.

But where must we look to for solutions? The civil service, which used to be the biggest employer in the country, has begun shrinking rapidly. Its focus today has shifted from numbers to efficiency. With good reason.

On the other hand, the private sector, often mooted as the engine of growth, has not seen the kind of growth to equal to the rising demand for employment opportunities. Without pragmatic solutions and right interventions, calling on the private sector to create more jobs makes little sense.

Startups are growing and must be encouraged, but that will take more than merely giving them occasional platforms. Incentivisation with subsidies will be required and should be provided. These happening, employment creation will grow and expand; although slowly in the beginning, the growth will pick pace.

Agriculture is the sector with the greatest potential to generate employment opportunities. However, the sector is today the smallest contributor to the economy because investment in the sector has been decreasing over the years. Even as agriculture is one of the biggest sectors, it is the smallest employer in the country today.

That the private sector must drive the economic growth of the country cannot be denied. For the economic growth to happen, however, the private sector growth must first find a firm footing.

A turn-around is possible but we must bring it to bear; misplaced priorities can be costly.

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