Nearly, 30,000 Bhutanese are seeking jobs currently. After the pandemic hit Bhutan, 13,000 lost their jobs while 8,000 returned from overseas adding to the already existing unemployment pool of 8,000. More than 3,000 are still expected to return home due to the pandemic. July alone saw more than 600 Bhutanese lose jobs.
Bhutan’s overall unemployment rate stands at 2.7% according to the Labor Force Survey report 2019 or more than 8,000. The youth unemployment rate stands at 11.9%.
Local media reported Lyonchhen describing this trend as “worrying, which if not solved, would lead to a social crisis.” The authorities are speculating that jobseekers have increased by 3% while job opportunities have decreased by 3% and that if this trend continues without being addressed, the workplace will shrink by 10%, meaning jobs will drop by 10%.
One of the measures initiated to address the unemployment crisis was the Build Bhutan Project that targets engaging 7,000 jobseekers in the construction sector. More than 1,000 have registered for the project as of July 10. This happened after many foreign workers could not return to Bhutan from the winter break due to the pandemic creating a shortage of workers in the country.
Apart from this, the labor ministry has stated that several plans in the pipeline that sought to engage jobseekers were put off due to the pandemic. However, certain programs like online learning and skilling through Youth Engagement Livelihood Program while supporting both employer and employees resumed from July 16.
The problem of unemployment is nothing new. It has been there for more than a decade and has roughly averaged 10.7%. Is the problem with the education system, the skills acquired or not acquired, the market and opportunities available or simply wrong planning and policies? While the blame game shuttles from one front to another, it would be a deeply worthful exercise, if the authorities concerned could conduct at least one comprehensive, in-depth study on why Bhutan is failing to provide jobs to its people especially the youth or why youth are not taking up those available. And yes, based on concrete evidence and facts, come up with a really practical plan to right the wrong.
Fifty percent of the unemployed have a degree while 87% are high school graduates. The level of literacy does not seem dismal yet, we see an increasing number of youth getting disillusioned with the jobs on offer or the lack of it. Are the youth asking for too much? Or on the other hand, are we asking too much from our youth?
Even as we hear of hundreds of youth dropping out of school after COVID19, we, as a community and nation are in dire straits. The future is slipping away from our hands. Unless we have grounded, happy and productive youth, we cannot ensure a happy and sustainable future. It is up to us to do something before it is too late.
Agreed, the pandemic has arrived as a major game-changer but we must rise to the occasion. Crisis can either make or break us. Sometimes, it is not as important to know the cause if we have a way forward. The “what after this” can be more vital and life-changing than “why me?”
As we struggle to make meaning of our haphazard lives right now, let us look beyond the horizon. Maybe, this pandemic is just the start of a series of life altering policies and activities that can help build the future of the nation.