Local firm tries to fill in the gap for construction workers

Despite the construction industry in Bhutan having a huge potential to generate employment for Bhutanese construction workers, most of the workers are from neighboring country, India. 

To break this code, all Bhutanese team of construction workers and professionals have formed a construction company, Dash (-) builders.

The team is up to do any sort of design and construction works building like roads, bridges and tunnels, said the Project Manager and Engineer, Jigme Namgyal.

The team, comprising 18 of them initially worked with Construction Development Corporation Limited (CDCL).

Currently, the team is working to rebuild Changjiji Bazam (a cantilever pedestrian bridge) in Thimphu. The works started on December 27 and it is expected to complete within six months.

Simultaneously, the team is also working to build a meeting hall at Serlung Pelkar Chhoeling Goenpa, Dokar Gewog at Paro. 

Jigme Namgyal, a civil engineer by profession graduated from College of Science and Technology in 2013, and after having worked for four years in Mangdechhu Project, he joined CDCL.

After completion of the Taba-Pamtsho and Chubachhu bridge construction, Jigme and those who worked on muster roll for CDCL projects formed a team. The team has plumber, electrician, mason, carpenter, among others.

“I have attachment with the team and the company’s profit is shared equally among 18 of us while retaining certain percentage for the company, “said Jigme Namgyal.

During the operation of company for seven months, each worker earned a minimum of Nu 50,000 per month, more than the income of teachers and health professionals in the country.

However, depending upon the need, the company also recruits workers as muster roll with daily wage of Nu 450 day.

“With the techniques and skills learned from CDCL, we are able to incorporate in the projects and earn about Nu 50,000 per month,” said a welder, Dorji Namgay.

A carpenter, Mon Bahadur Tamang after completing class XII and joined CDCL. He said most of the youths today are after desk jobs and reluctant to do manual works.

“We, as a team want to provide quality works for similar projects in future,” he added.

Program Manager, Jigme Namgyal said the main challenges in construction sector is retaining Bhutanese youths.

Additionally, he said that most of the private contractors do not recruit Bhutanese nationals and prefer to hire foreign workers from neighboring country because of cheaper labor charge.

Moreover, Jigme Namgyal said there is myth that foreign workers can do better work. “Given the opportunity, Bhutanese can do equally good,” he added

Of the total 50, 057 foreign workers in the country as of June 2019, the majority of 41,083 workers were employed in the building and related trade indicating that most of them are hired in construction industry, according to Ministry of Labor and Human resources’ annual report, m2018-2019. 

The industry recruited about 50,776 construction workers in 2015, 87.7% of which were foreign workers.

This has led to huge outflow of money through various payments like labor wages, and procurement of imported materials.

Annually, the Royal Monetary Authority remits Rs. 7bn as payments for foreign workers and Nu 5.76bn for the construction materials.

According to the Construction Development Board, the trend of high dependence on foreign workers is reluctant to change due to perception of construction work as difficult because of manual labor involved, substandard working conditions and dangerous due to weak enforcement of safety regulations and standards.

Thukten Zangpo from Thimphu