One of the largest migrations in US history and the World was the California Gold Rush of 1849-1855, where hundreds of thousands of migrants across the United States and the globe coming to California to find gold in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. It was definitely a “Rush.”
However, Australia does not have something like the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Still, in 2020, there were over 7.6 million migrants living in Australia. This was 29.8% of the population that were born overseas. Nearly every single country from around the world was represented in Australia’s population in 2020.
Bhutanese living in Australia are part of the 7.6 million and though there are no officially declared documents about the number of Bhutanese in Australia, a lot has left the country, especially in the last couple of years. And if the number of people engaged in writing Statements of Purpose (SoP) or those registering for IELTS are considered, many are planning to move to Australia.
There definitely is no gold Down Under. But the crispy, waterproof Australian dollar is a magnet and many leaving for Australia are after that. Money cannot buy happiness, but it can make one’s life comfortable.
Should we be concerned? There are two schools of thought – one saying that like everything, the migration will reach a peak and then decline. The other says Bhutan may not have enough workforce even for desk jobs, if civil servants resign and leave at this trend as most civil servants leaving belong to the lower group.
Where did we go wrong? Concerning civil servants, many point their fingers at the lack of communication between those involved in the civil service restructuring exercise and civil servants.
This led to rumours, which are still rampant that many will lose their jobs. The only alternative was Australia. Apart from the possible shortage of workforce, the economic costs will be huge and spread all over. Businesses frequented by the youth will die as most leaving are young and those from the productive age. Huge companies could face issues of staff shortage. Civil servants will need to multitask, affecting their efficiency; for none are machines. Many have written about all these issues. The question is what could be done?
The Minister, Ministry of Works and Human Settlement (MoWHS) has said that the mass exodus of people to Australia is a wake-up call and that without an environment where people can use their skills and earn, people will continue to go. He has highlighted the need for economic growth to either ensure that Bhutanese return to seeing favorable economic prospects in Bhutan or to invest from Australia. There should be favorable conditions for people to invest in ventures that are promising.
It appears that the government is already working on it. And it is never too late.