Govt. to amend immigration rules to allow foreign domestic workers

Home and Cultural Affairs minister says the government will initiate the recruitment of domestic workers as long as it does not pose a threat to the security and sovereignty of the country.

The government has commissioned a study to implement policies and regulations on recruitment of foreign domestic workers in the country.

Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) had pledged in its election manifesto that the party would review and adopt policies to employ foreign domestic workers to address the shortage of babysitters and domestic helps in the country. This was also one of DNT’s 120 days pledges.

Speaking to Business Bhutan, Home and Cultural Affairs Minister Sherub Gyeltshen said the government will initiate the recruitment of foreign domestic workers by reviewing and amending immigration rules and regulations and will institute stringent monitoring standards and guidelines for that.“It is the responsibility of the government to drive this pledge into action as soon as possible,” said Lyonpo.

According to a study titled ‘Socioeconomic Determinants of Fertility in Thimphu City: The Effect of Babysitter’ done by Center for Bhutan Studies, 72% of the respondents said they cannot go for more than two children because they cannot find a babysitter. While a majority of the respondents reported that their ideal number of children is two, 37% of the respondents reasoned that they need a babysitter if they were to go beyond their ideal number.

The government, in line with these grievances, had pledged to adopt a policy to employ foreign domestic workers.

The Home and Cultural Affairs Minister said the recruitment of foreign domestic workers has become a crucial approach since the country is facing a serious problem of babysitters.

Besides immigration laws, the government also have to review labor rules and regulations to initiate recruitment of foreign domestic workers.

According to Department of Labor’s handbook on recruitment and employment of foreign workers, the category of foreign workers is restricted to certain group if the workforce requested is locally available. The list of restricted occupation includes childcare workers and housekeepers. Lyonpo Sherub Gyeltshen however said the policies will be implemented in consultation with all stakeholders and stringent regulations will be put in place to protect the interests of both employers and workers.

However, one concern is the exceeding number of foreign workers in the country. According to the records maintained by the Department of Immigration,there are a total of 51,096 foreign workers in the country as of January 2, 2019. This figure far exceeds the ceiling of 45,000 foreign workers decided by National Assembly in 2004.

“As long as the approach is not a threat to the security and sovereignty of the country, the government will initiate the recruitment of domestic workers,” saidLyonpo.

A female civil servant said while so much is done to increase the fertility rate of the country through maternity allowances for rural women, the government should also look into the basic problems faced by women in urban areas such as getting a good babysitter. “The availability of babysitters will certainly increase the fertility rate since it would be easier for us to raise children and we will not have to quit our jobs to raise our children,” she said.

According to population projection by the National Statistics Bureau, the fertility rate of Bhutan is expected to decline below 1.8% by 2030. The fertility rate is the number of live births a woman can bear in her reproductive life span.

In addition, the study‘Socioeconomic Determinants of Fertility in Thimphu City: The Effect of Babysitter’ found out that with the rising class of nuclear family in which both spouses are working, there is a strong need for housemaids to look after babies and manage household chores.

Phub Dem from Thimphu