No Longer Coveted – The Once Valued Rotating Chairs

Since Bhutan ventured on the path of modern development, the civil service has been the profession of choice, with every literate Bhutanese wishing to find a place within its umbrella. The situation is no longer the same and the Bhutanese civil service, together with the corporate and private sectors have witnessed an unprecedented attrition rate.

Moreover, those who are still sitting on the once coveted rotating chairs are reportedly overworked and thinking about joining the bandwagon of those who have left.

The rotating chair once valued with great respect has now left empty within the four corners of the wall in many governments, corporate and private sector in the country. Today, the gossip is same in every organisation that many employees has left and leaving the chair for better opportunity but those who remains are now worried and pressured with the work loads.

A government employee who wished to remain anonymous said he is glad that his colleagues and others who have left the system have found greener pastures abroad and within the country. “We are glad that our colleagues are leaving for better opportunity. However, the ones who remain in the offices are not really sure of what to do,” he said.

The same was shared by another employee who also added that the office he works for is almost deserted. “Currently, only four of us are in the office. Earlier we had around 17 employees, due to which the work has increased. We have even announced vacancies for about 15 positions,” he said.

The private sectors have also been affected. An employer of a private company said that these days it is very hard to retain their employees as many of the employees resign for better opportunities in other organisations and some to move abroad.

“The experienced employees in my company go for better opportunity even when we have written contract. It is very challenging for us to retain our experienced employees,” he said, adding that he literally had to revise the salaries as a strategy to retain employees.

Similarly, officials from the financial institutions said that many employees have left the organisation, while some are planning to follow suit. “We must be worried if this trend continues as many employees who resign go either to Australia, the UK and Canada, amongst others. It takes time for new entrants to be familiarized with the banking works,” an official from a FI said.

He added that senior employees are giving in house trainings for new recruits. The official also said that more opportunities are available for youths who wish and aspire to serve the country instead of going abroad. 

Several people say that the cause of this “exodus” from the government, corporate and private sector is mainly due to the high cost of living, re-opening of the international border after the COVID19 pandemic, better opportunities abroad, amongst others.

Meanwhile people have mixed feelings about it, with some opining that it is an opportunity for those living in the country and some saying that the trend is a concern.

A senior Bhutanese work in one of the United Nations (UN) agencies said that he has been in the country for quiet some time. “I work abroad but I frequently come to the country. I consider that the gaps in the civil service are opportunities for people like me and I have been thinking that concerned agencies would announce vacancies,” he said.

However, he mentioned that nothing has come of yet. When asked why he does not approach “those concerned agencies,” he said that he had resigned from the civil service and joined the UN agency. “It is now the responsibility of agencies to announce that those like me can come back and join,” he said. 

Another former civil servant mentioned that the country would now need to depend on expatriates if the trend continues. “We have worked very hard to have people of our own manning offices. We reached the peak and now we are falling down and if this continues, I don’t see any other alternative but to rely on expatriates,” he said, adding that the government “should really look into it.”

According to the Annual report (July 2021- June 2022), state of the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC), 70% of the civil servants left the system voluntarily; resignation, 14% superannuated, followed by early retirement scheme with 4.4%, amongst others. The report stated that about 1,462 civil servants separated as of June last year.

In an earlier meet-the-press conference, Minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Tandi Dorji, said that there are over 32,000 Bhutanese living in about 113 countries.

Meanwhile, an official from RCSC said that the commission is actively looking at strategies to address the shortage of staff. “We are currently working on this,” the official said.

Until then, the rotating chairs will continue to remain empty.

Sherab Dorji from Thimphu