One of the biggest challenges facing Bhutan today is the rising youth unemployment. The country have a population of about 141,000 in the age bracket of 15 to 24. As more and more young people graduate and enter job market, unemployment issue is growing steadily.
According to a government stat, about 18,000 young people enter job market every year; govt and non govt sectors are able to provide jobs for just about 6,000 jobseekers all in all. Of the 5,780 jobs identified last year out of civil service, armed forces and government corporations, only 3,593 were taken. With a small private sector, its absorption capacity is less. In the last four years, about 60,000 young people were placed in various jobs and training opportunities. Those that underwent training, even as they now have skills, are among the jobless today. Urging young people to take advantage of available jobs is easy, but skills without job and income opportunities do little to help alleviate unemployment situation in the country.
There have been some notable interventions from the government, but much leaves to be desired. Direct employment can take in only so many employment seekers at a time; self-employment has a challenge of its own. When access to finance is difficult, self-employment cannot take off. The government’s overseas employment programme (OEP) made quite a stir recently. Royal Audit Authority’s employment generation and promotion initiative report has found that inadequacies, lapses and deficiencies concerning OEP. Further to that, only 2,535 job seekers were sent overseas between 2013 and 2016, the labour ministry has met only 7.8 percent of the 30,000 target it had set for OEP. According to the report, the labour ministry implemented OEP without setting a clear target. It has also been found that the ministry failed to put in place safety measures for the Bhutanese sent overseas through agents, resulting in issues like untimely and exploitative payments and excessive working hours.
Creation of employment opportunities ought to be sustainable. It is not enough that the country make do with short-term interventions. The government needs to look at long-term strategies to address unemployment issue in the country.