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30,000 Bhutanese seeking employment, number increasing

DIGEST-ENG-25-02-2020-Bhutan

Close to 30,000 Bhutanese are seeking jobs currently. The number includes those laid off or affected by the pandemic and others returning from abroad, adding to the unemployment pool of 8,000 jobseekers that already existed before the pandemic.

More than 13,000 lost jobs after Covid-19 pandemic hit Bhutan in March. Another 8,000 people returned from overseas, of which, 90 percent were working overseas. 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 percent, according to the Labour Force Survey report (2019) or more than 8,000. The youth unemployment rate stands at 11.9 percent.

Lyonchhen during a meeting with executives and ministers last week described this trend as worrying, which if not solved, would lead to a social crisis.

“We have to create jobs for them,” Lyonchhen said. “We’re worried since the job seekers have increased by 3 percent while job opportunities have decreased by 3 percent.”

Lyonchhen added that if this trend continues and if not addressed, the workplace will shrink by 10 percent, meaning the jobs will drop by 10 percent.

However, measures are being put in place to address the unemployment issues, according to the labour and human resources minister Ugyen Dorji. One of the measures was the Build Bhutan Project that targets engaging 7,000 job seekers in the construction sector. More than 1,000 have registered for the project as of July 10.

This has 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.

Lyonpo had earlier told Kuensel that engaging in the construction sector was the only option to solve unemployment, as there was no other business.

The Labour minister in an email interview said that all the programmes carried out by the ministry to address the unemployment issue before the pandemic was put on halt after Covid-19 hit Bhutan.

Lyonpo said this was because the government directed to slow down on the implementation of programmes as the threat of Covid-19 pandemic had spread globally.

“It was a preventive measure but also to allow the government to plan a proper response to the pandemic.”

However, recognising the impact of Covid-19 on employment where many were being laid off, Lyonpo said the ministry immediately conducted a quick survey of enterprises and industries that were most likely to lay off workers.

Accordingly, lyonpo claimed that the ministry whose vision is to ensure gainful employment for all Bhutanese workforce has been working/worked on various programmes.