Bhutan’s job market sees a different picture

Bhutan’s job market sees a different picture

From more applicants to few applicants, agencies see less applicants for jobs

The Ministry of Labour and Human resources, (MoLHR), on 12th December, 2022, launched a report titled, “Bhutan Workforce Future, stepping stones to industrial strategic propositions for Agriculture, creative and digital sectors.” From several important findings, the report states that there have been observations of both highly qualified and lowly skilled individuals, who are emigrating. Emigrants include both public sector officials who have resigned as well as job seekers.

Meanwhile, in the last few months, there has been a flurry of job opening announcements from various agencies on social media and in newspaper advertisements. But many of those organizations’ human resource officers (HRO) said there are very few or no applications. Due to this agencies have had to re-announce the position. While there is no data to relate the MoLHR’s report concerning emigrants and the lack of people applying for vacancies, private and corporate sectors told the paper that they are hard up for people to fill in vacancies. 

Additionally, service industries like hotels are not far behind. Even before the government announced the reopening of the borders, vacancies in hotels were floated. “Earlier, there used to be just a small number of job openings—usually between two and four—but now there are many.  We are experiencing a staffing deficit now as employees left after we closed shop because of the pandemic. Now, we are having problems getting people that we want,” one of the hotel owners said.

A human resources representative from one of the agencies, who wished to remain unnamed, stated, “There used to be few job opportunities at our organization, but now we are seeing many people leaving for further studies or to work abroad. They were excellent and we lost them and we are not sure if we can fill in those vacancies,” he said.

Speaking about retention, he said that it is very difficult for the organization to stop employees from leaving. “Everyone seems to be wanting to leave. Additionally, the one month notice period is ineffective at the moment because staff leave on their whims, giving us little chance to even recruit a replacement,” he said.

He continued that the rule making it mandatory for employees who leave without notice to pay the company two months of their monthly salaries does not bother people. “People pay it and they have no reservations.”

A HR officer from one of the private sectors based in Thimphu also said that they are dealing with the same problems.

“We advertised around nine job openings, but only received an average of four to five applications for each position, even after re-announcements twice” He continued that a factor could be the dearth of qualified candidates who have already left the country. “It is possible that those in Bhutan’s job markets are not eligible, while those who are have left the country.”

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a company also had the same to say.  “There are more jobs but there are fewer people looking. That’s either because they have already moved out of Bhutan or because they are uncertain about moving.”

This is an irony as the Bhutan Statistical Bureau’s yearbook of 2022, says that the overall unemployment rate was 4.8% in 2021, while the youth unemployment rate was 20.9%. Youth unemployment has been largely an urban phenomenon, with the rate being four times higher in urban areas as compared to rural areas.

A civil servant who sought anonymity said “the mismatch between employment and the graduates being trained for during their bachelor’s degree, however, is another perplexing factor that can be seen.”

“Many people working nowadays have very different educational backgrounds from what they are doing today. For instance, several Sherubtse College graduates with degrees in media studies have joined as contract teachers at a time when the media industry is experiencing a staffing crisis,” he said, adding, it is an indication that there isn’t a suitable channel connecting employers and employees in the market.

There is also another theory thrown in. According to a resident of Thimphu, Pema,”While many qualified persons with the earning of Nu 50,000 to 70,000 per month are going in pursuit of greater possibilities, why wouldn’t the fresh graduates, who don’t have any experience in the job, move?”

Meanwhile, many graduates used to cry foul about the need for experience in the job vacancy requirements. “But now, the majority of jobs being advertised don’t demand experience. Still then the number of applications received for certain jobs is not enough. This is a new phenomenon,” he said. 

An unemployed youth, with a background in communication and media studies said that he is currently unemployed but waiting for an offer letter from one of the universities in Australia.

“I received a call and an offer to work as a communications officer in one of the well-known five-star hotels. They promised to pay me Nu 30,000 plus per month, but I was unable to accept because doing so would require me to sign a two-year contract, which would interfere with my plans to pursue a master’s degree in Australia,” he said.

Tshering Pelden from Thimphu