Unemployment rate stands at 2%

The country’s unemployment rate this year is estimated at 2%, a drop from 2.7% in 2012, according to the Bhutan Living Standards Survey (BLSS) Report 2017 recently launched by Prime Minister Lyonchhen Dasho Tshering Tobgay.

Unemployment remains a largely urban phenomenon with unemployment rate of 4.6% compared to only 0.8% in rural areas.

The working-age population, 15 years and above is estimated at 506,611 — about one third (32.8%) in urban areas and two thirds (67.2%) in the rural areas therefore more people within the working-age group are found in the rural areas.

Labor force participation is estimated at 61% for the country: 64% in the rural areas and 56% in the urban areas.

According to the report, a high proportion of the labor force is employed. Gender disparities in labor force participation (73.6% for males, 49.6% for females) are greater than urban–rural disparities.

Meanwhile, there is no significant difference in the unemployment rates for males (1.8%) and females (2.2%).Unemployment is concentrated in the younger working-age groups. It is highest among those in the youngest working-age group, 15–24 years with 11% unemployed.

Among dzongkhags, the unemployment rate is highest in Thimphu with 6% followed by Chhukha at 3%. Other dzongkhags have rates of 2% and below. The labor force participation rates, ranging from 55% to 73%, are highest in Tsirang (72.8%) and Gasa (70.8%), while the lowest rates are found in Trashigang with labor force participation rate of little more than 55% and Thimphu with 56%.

In Bhutan, 51% of the working-age population has had no schooling while a majority of the employed has no schooling. About 60% of the unemployed have secondary education and above. This is because a majority of those who are employed and have no schooling are farmers. Among the economically inactive, almost half (48.1%) have had no schooling.The unemployment rate increases gradually from lower towards higher levels of education.

Among the occupational statuses, own-account workers make up the largest proportion of the employed at 61% and about a quarter of them (26%) are regular paid employees. In rural areas, a majority of the employed accounted for own-account workers (74.9%), while in urban areas, regular paid employees (63.6%) made up the largest proportion. In the urban areas, most of the employed (63.6%) are regular paid employees while in the rural areas, most of the employed (74.9%) are own-account workers.

The National Statistics Bureau conducted the BLSS 2017 in the months of March and April 2017 with financial and technical support from the World Bank.

For BLSS 2017, a person is considered to be employed or working if he or she has a job or does any work in farming, raising animals, forestry, or fishing; or has done any work to generate an income or help in a family business in the last seven days prior to the survey.

Pema Seldon from Thimphu