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Unemployment: Wishing it away won’t help

There are enough jobs in the country. This is what prime minister said in the National Assembly recently. We have been hearing the same refrain even as unemployment, particularly youth unemployment is growing slowly and steadily.

Either the leaders are making a mockery of the rising unemployment or they do not understand the gravity of the situation. There is no better explanation.

Reading the runes, if we go on saying that there are enough jobs in the country but only not enough takers, the problem of unemployment is just going to worsen, which in due time will manifest itself in various social ills.

No less than 20,000 jobseekers are expected to enter the labour market annually. This is going by the official estimate from the government. The economic growth that we have witnessed isn’t creating impressive number of jobs. Because our young people are not willing to take the kind of jobs that are made available to them, it will be a daunting challenge for the government to address the problem of rising youth unemployment.

If young Bhutanese jobseekers are unwilling to take low-paying blue-collar jobs, the most sensible solution is encouraging self-employment. Private sector development, which is seen as the engine of growth, cannot happen without fecund grounds for self-employment. The government may spent billions of ngultrums to create jobs but if only a small fraction of people have benefited from it the efforts have gone altogether in vain.

Prime minister gave an example of 34 vacancies announced for assistant research officer at the National Assembly. Of the 70 individuals who applied for the job, only 48 turned up for the interview. Of the 34 who were employed, seven has resigned. But the resignation ought not necessarily mean that there are plenty other job opportunities where people can hop about as they like.

Small private sector is already a problem. Because it is weak and small, job creation in the sector has been meagre. And frequent pay rise for civil service is not helping. In fact, it is worsening the situation of unemployment in the country.

We cannot wish away the biggest problem facing the country today. Accepting that there is a problem is the beginning. Fundamental structural changes must follow. Only then can we say we have enough jobs that our young people are willing to take.

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