Unemployment and its bane
January 29, 2018 Editorial

Overseas employment has been making headlines for quite some time now. It will continue to do so until the present and the future governments are able to figure out how best to and create jobs in the country. Unemployment, in particular youth unemployment, has been growing over the years while we have been fiddling with some short-term and unsustainable ideas to address the problem. As we speak, the nation’s youth unemployment figure stands at 13.2 percent. Going by some estimates, some 19,000 jobseekers are expected to enter the labour market annually. It is a formidable challenge. Addressing unemployment situation that the nation is facing today will require vision and courage. It will test the confidence of the government and our policymakers.
Even as the government has been touting its overseas employment programme as a success, the programme has put Bhutanese jobseekers and their families in difficult situation. Overseas employment programme helped employ close to 4,000 Bhutanese in businesses outside Bhutan. But, all’s not been a happy story. Many who went abroad to work have returned because there weren’t jobs waiting for them; those who got employed found working conditions stressful and difficult. Some were ill treated by their employers. They found that their agents had cheated them.
Recently, five Bhutanese women had to be brought back to the country after they suffered harrowing conditions in Kurdistan, Iraq. Shortly after landing in Iraq, their travel documents, cell phones, cash and ornaments were seized, and they were put in a small room without ventilation. They had gone to Iraq to work as domestic workers but ended up getting locked up like animals. We are yet to learn what difficult experience they had to live in a foreign country.
We are told that the case is being investigated. It is a small comfort. Employment agents must be brought to the law so that such things do not happen again.
Young Bhutanese are leaving abroad because there are no employment opportunities in the country. Bhutan’s working age population is increasing just as the public sector’s absorption capacity is diminishing. It is a desperate situation at home that compels jobseekers to risk everything to find a job. Saying we have enough jobs but no takers is no good answer. For sustainable job creation, we need look no farther than our own backyards. Although private sector growth is recognised as critically important to create employment opportunities in the country, Bhutan has not been able to make it happen in a significant way.
Private sector growth must be encouraged because it is the main driver of economy. Problems like youth unemployment, which is growing alarmingly, could cripple all our efforts to make space for jobseekers or else.


Unemployment highest among those with middle and higher education
January 29, 2018 News

For every five working age population, there are three persons contributing to the production of goods in Bhutan, according to the Labour Force Survey Report 2016 the labour ministry released.
The report estimated about 190,819 men and 156,311 women as employed.
The report defined employment-to-population ratio as the proportion of employed persons to the country’s working age. The report stated that female employment to population ratio is lower than male across all the residents in both rural and urban areas.
The highest ratio is seen in the prime age group (25-54) category with 93.5 percent and 69.2 percent in both female and male.
During the reference period, the survey considered persons who worked as paid employees, own account workers and family workers as employed persons. This also includes persons with a job but not at work during the reference period (the previous one week).
The report stated that although employed persons in agriculture is declining over the years, the report found that a majority of the employed are in agriculture at 57.2 percent followed by 34.2 percent in service and 8.7 percent in industry sector.

“Gasa experienced the lowest share of employed persons in all sectors while Samtse shared the maximum employed persons working in Agriculture,” report sated. “Chukha ranked the highest share in industry followed by Thimphu.”
Industry sector includes mining, manufacturing and construction. Thimphu has the highest employment sector with 29.6 percent and contributed the maximum share of employed persons at 12.8 percent.
The report stated that women have less qualification compared to men and that, as qualification gets higher, number of women employed gets less. “It further deteriorated with Master’s degree and above where women constitute only 280 as compared to 1,626 men.”
The average monthly income earning of an employed person is Nu 15,000 in urban areas and Nu 10,000 in rural areas, the report stated.
Out of 570,231 working age population, the survey result revealed that, 354,652 persons are economically active population and today, 54.9 percent of men are in the labour force compared to 45.1 percent women.
A total of 215,579 persons are economically inactive. A majority among female (29.5%) are economically inactive because of their involvement in household and family duties. For men, this is only 2.8 percent.
The highest reported reason for inactivity among male (20.0%) is engaged in studies.
Labour force is the population aged 15 years and older that is currently economically active.
Meanwhile, the unemployment rate stands at 2.1 percent, which is lower than 2015’s (2.5%) at the national level according to the report. The report defined unemployed as those who are without work, seeking work and available for work during the survey reference period. The survey followed ILO norms to calculate the unemployment rate.
The survey estimated the number of unemployed persons at 7,521 in 2016 of which men constitute 51.2 percent and 48.8 percent women. Unemployment rate was highest in urban areas both for men and women with 2.8 percent and 5.9 percent respectively.
Women unemployment rate is 2.3 percent and men unemployment rate is 2 percent.
“This higher unemployment rate in women is caused due to less women labour force in the market,” the report stated. “It displays that unemployment rate is the highest among those with middle and higher education with 3.5 percent.”
In the annual unemployment rates, the report found that male unemployment rate over the years has been lower than female unemployment rate. In 2016, the gap between the male and female unemployment rate has declined.
Samtse has the second highest number of unemployed people at 17.9 percent followed by Paro with 14.1 percent while Dagana and Gasa have no unemployed persons.
However, the survey estimated youth unemployment rate at 13.2 percent for 2016. Youth unemployment is the percentage of unemployed population in the age group 15-24 years to the labour force.
The report stated that the youth unemployment rate is the highest for both male and female with bachelors degree followed by middle and higher education.

Yangchen C Rinzin