Unemployment is more of an urban phenomenon with 10.4% which is almost three times higher than that of rural areas with 3.4%
A total of 305,983 persons are classified as economically active in the labour force in 2022. Out of these, 18,198 persons were found without work, but seeking and were available for work during the reference period.
This translates to an unemployment rate of 5.9% which is an increase of 1.1 percentage points from 2021, according to the Labour Force Survey (LFS) conducted in the month of September, last year.
Looking at the levels and trends in the unemployment rate between 2017 – 2022, it is observed that the unemployment rates had greatly fluctuated between 3.1% in 2017 and 5.9% in 2022.
According to the report, the first high unemployment rate of 5.0% was observed in 2020, which could be attributed to COVID-19 pandemic where it has greatly reduced the employment opportunities for those unemployed as the businesses and service sectors remained closed.
It was further aggravated by the oversea returnees and those laid off employees by the affected sectors. The second-high unemployment rate was seen in 2022 at 5.9 %.
Among the sex, the female unemployment rate is recorded the highest in the year 2022 compared to the previous years
The report states that the unemployment rate for females is 7.9% higher than that of males with 4.4%. Unemployment is more of an urban phenomenon with 10.4% which is almost three times higher than that of rural areas with 3.4%.
Among dzongkhags, the unemployment rates exhibit wide variations. Thimphu has the highest unemployment rate at 12.5%, followed by Sarpang at 9.1%, Wangdue Phodrang at 6.4%, Paro at 6.1%, and Zhemgang at 5.8%.
While Gasa with 0.6% has the lowest unemployment rate, including Pema Gatshel with 1.3%, Dagana with 1.8%, and Trongsa with 1.9% are also among the Dzongkhags with the lowest unemployment rate.
The overall youth unemployment rate is estimated at 28.6% with 8,496 persons. The youth unemployment rate for males at 24.4% is lower than that of females at 32.8%. The long-term unemployment rate is estimated at 1.0% with 3,108 persons. It is higher among females at 1.1% than that of the male at 1%.
The survey shows that the highest unemployment rate is observed amongst those persons with higher secondary with 18%, followed by bachelor’s degree with 15% and middle secondary with 8.2% education levels.
In addition, the unemployment rate for persons with primary to higher secondary education (primary, lower secondary, middle secondary, and higher secondary) is 8.9%, while persons with education above secondary level (certificate/diploma, bachelor’s degree, and master’s degree and above) is 11.7%.
Comparing by sex, the unemployment rate for females is higher than that of males in all the categories of educational level. The unemployment rate for those females with bachelor’s degree is 20.1%, while it is 11.6% for males.
For those persons with higher secondary education, the rate is 14.5% for males and 22.2% for females. The unemployment rate of females with middle secondary education stands at 11.5%, which is two times more than that of males with 5.7%
However, the country’s employment rate for 2022 is 94.1%. The employment rate for males is 95.6% which is higher than that of females at 92.1%. Of the total employed, 189,476 persons reside in rural areas while 98,309 persons live in urban areas.
Gasa Dzongkhag with 99.4% has the highest employment rate while Thimphu has the lowest with 87.5%. By major occupational groups, ‘skilled agricultural, forestry, and fishery worker’ with 43.0% employed the highest number of persons, while ‘armed force occupation’ with 2.2% employed the lowest.
In terms of employment status, persons working in agriculture as ‘own-account workers’ is with 21.9% and ‘family workers’ are with 20.9% combined account for the highest proportion at 42.8% followed by ‘regular paid employee’ at 34.6%, and the lowest is for ‘Apprenticeship/Internship’ with 0.1%.
Out of the total employed persons, 38.3% are without any qualification, while 12.6% have ‘primary/nursery’ and 11.2% have ‘middle secondary.’ About 8.8% of the total employed persons have an education level of ‘bachelor’s degree and above’.
Among the total employed persons, the highest percentage is engaged in the agriculture sector with 43.5%, while the lowest is found in the industry sector with 13.7%.
Among the age groups, 65+ (100.0%) has the highest proportion of employed persons followed by ages 60-64 (99.5%). The lowest proportion of employed persons is observed in ages 15-19 (62.5%).
The survey findings of the economically active and inactive population showed that the working-age population in Bhutan is composed of persons 15 years and above. There were 484,965 in the working age group in 2022 which is a decrease of 4,767 persons compared to 489,732 persons estimated in 2021.
Of these, 233,437 persons (48.1%) were males, and 251,529 persons with 51.9% were females.
About 38% of the working-age population is in urban areas and slightly less than two-thirds are in rural areas. Of the total 484,965 working-age population, 305,983 persons are economically active. 55.7% of them are males and 44.3% are females.
By area, 64.6% of the total labour force resides in rural areas, while a little more than one-third with 35.4% live in urban areas.
Meanwhile, the Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR) for Bhutan in 2022 is estimated at 63.1%. The LFPR for rural areas at 65.2% is higher than the urban areas at 59.7%.
Further, comparing by sex, the LFPR for males is 73.4% higher than the female LFPR of 53.5%.
About 36.9% of 178,983 persons of the working-age population are economically inactive; about 65% are females and 35% are males. While 41.4% of the economically inactive population is found in urban areas and 58.6% are in rural areas.
Meanwhile, the LFS was conducted with the aim to provide data that would help monitor and evaluate the overall socio-economic development of the country and to aid in the formulation of national policies and plans that are related to job creation, poverty reduction, and similar programs.
The content of the questionnaire is in coherence with international standards as well as in keeping with the requirements of national needs.
The sample for 2022 LFS was designed to provide estimates on labour force-related indicators both at the national and at the dzongkhag levels.
A total of 10,560 households were selected from twenty dzongkhags, out of which about 35.2% with 3,720 households are in urban areas and 64.8% with 6,840 households are in rural areas.
From the 10,560 sample households, 10,506 households responded to the survey questionnaire, giving a response rate of 99.5%. A total of 102 enumerators and 20 supervisors were engaged in the survey data collection which took place across the country.
However, the survey found that the reasons for being unemployed vary slightly among males and females. Among the males, 30.8% reasoned that they have recently completed their studies, while the corresponding figure for females is 31.4%. However, the percentage of females who mentioned ‘lack of adequate qualification’ at 23.7% is higher compared to males at 18.1%.
The survey also collected information on the reasons for being unemployed. Among several reasons cited, ‘recently completed studies’ at 31.2%, ‘lack of adequate qualification’ at 21.4%, ‘qualification mismatch at 10.5%, and ‘voluntarily resigned from the earlier job’ at 8.8% are the major ones.
Nidup Lhamo from Thimphu