Youth unemployment rate reaches 13.2% in Bhutan

Writer: 
by Yangchen C Rinzin

THIMPHU (Kuensel/ANN) - Overall unemployment rate decreases to 2.1 per cent according to the draft Labour Force Survey Report 2016.

Although the overall unemployment rate has decreased from 2.5 percent in 2015 to 2.1 percent in 2016 as per the draft Labour Force Survey Report (LFSR) 2016, youth unemployment rate has increased by 2.6 percent.

The Economic and Private Sector Development Committee shared the national employment situation report yesterday at the National Assembly.

According to the report, youth unemployment rate has increased to 13.2 percent from 10.7 percent. By gender, male unemployed youth doubled in 2016 while female unemployed decreased.

Male youth unemployment reached 16.4 percent in 2016 from 8.2 percent in 2015 while female youth unemployment decreased from 12.7 in 2015 to 11.0 in 2016. Going by residence, youth unemployed rate in rural area rose to 9.9 percent from 4.8 percent in 2015 while in urban areas, it decreased to 23.3 percent from 28.0 percent in 2015.

Committee’s deputy chairperson and Shompangkha MP, Rinzin Dorji, said the report on employment situation was shared to seek recommendations for intervention.

In terms of numbers, 8,660 were unemployed in 2015, which reduced to 7,521 in 2016. Male unemployed rate increased to 2.0 from 1.8 while for female, it has decreased to 2.3 percent from 3.1 percent.

However, MP Rinzin Dorji said the figures are based only on the LFSR 2015 and draft LFSR 2016. The committee report also stated that about 19,000 jobseekers are expected to enter the labour market annually.

He said that the labour ministry initiated the youth engagement programme under the job plan 2016- 2017 for projected 17,880 jobseekers.

“A total of 8,000 were projected to be employed through normal economic activities, 2,500 through regular training programmes, 1,600 through engagement programme and specific programmes were developed besides a job plan to take in 5,780 jobseekers,” he said. “The job plan was implemented from January 2017 with a supplementary budget of Nu 262.808 million (US$ 4.043M).”

The youth engagement programmes include direct employment scheme, overseas employment scheme, entrepreneurship and self-employment programme, and agency for the promo- tion of indigenous crafts.

The ministry planned youth engagement and job plan 2017-2018 with an approved budget of Nu 303.367 million (US$ 4.667M) and an additional Nu 412 million (US$ 6.338M) for training and other programmes. The projected number of jobseekers for this job plan is 19,363.

The committee also reported on the challenges faced by the Bhutanese youth abroad. MP Rinzin Dorji said that those who went to India for overseas employment programme shared that placements there are competitive, wages are low and jobs are available only in hotel industry. “Salary is not attractive, working conditions are difficult, and there is risk of abuse at workplace in the Middle East countries,” the MP said. “Financial institutions are reluctant to disburse loans to youth opting to go to Japan and the ministry faces challenges of lack of or limited access to finance.”

Under the direct employment scheme, he said there is high turnover of jobseekers due to manual jobs, mismatch of jobs and skills, limited absorption capacity of local job market and preference for desk jobs.

The committee submitted five recommendations to the house, which the members through a show of hands endorsed all.

The committee recommended that financial institution should be encouraged to grant loans under the overseas education loan scheme, private sector development should be supported and encouraged, to provide career oriented vocational skills training and education for the youth, to encourage self-employment, and to reconsider tuition fee support for language courses.

Labour minister, Ngeema Sangay Tshempo, said the LFSR 2016 was not published to avoid having three different employment figures because the Bhutan Living Standard Survey (BLSS) 2017 and Population and Housing Census of Bhutan (PHCB) 2017, which also cover unemployment, were conducted at the same time.

“National Statistic Bureau also recommended reviewing the methodologies, survey tools, definition of the unemployment and samplings,” the minister  said. “There is nothing to hide but we should wait for other reports to not have three different figures.”

Although youth unemployment rate has increased, he said that going by the numbers, there are only 309 jobseekers.

“The main reason for increase is because there are less jobseekers who register as unemployed while the government creates jobs based on the registered numbers,” minister Ngeema Samgay Tshempo said. “Most overseas workplace demand matured jobseekers who are above 24 years which is why the youth are left behind leading to an increase in youth unemployment rate.”

He added most youth prefer desk jobs and do not come forward to take job opportunities available.

“From the Nu 262.808 million supplementary budget, only about Nu 100 million (US$ 1.538M) was utilised and the remaining budget was refunded to the government. This was because a total of 2,187 youth did not avail jobs provided tothem.”

Panbang MP Dorji Wangdi, who is also a committee member, said that the 2016 LFSR should have been released in April this year, but it was not and the information was kept a secret by the government.

“A majority of the unemployed are university graduates and about 57 percent of them are in Thimphu, Paro, and Samtse,” he said. “A total of 1,832 have remained unemployed for more than two years and 1,741 have been unemployed for a year.”

He said that most jobseekers face unfair treatment in recruitment process such as pre-selection and lack of transparency. He added that most overseas jobs are in the tourism and hospitality sector, or as sales person, in IT and agriculture, which do not pay well.

“The Prime Minister informed that about 20,000 jobseekers were employed, about 12,739 were trained and employed in the last four years,” he said, adding that if the ministry’s projection is 18,000 to 19,000 jobseekers annually, then in five years, the total number of those employed should be 95,000. This is why the figures shared by the prime minister, labour ministry and the committee’s report are confusing.

Economic affairs minister, Lekey Dorji, said the committee’s report has not reflected how many were employed in different sectors like the private, corporation, and government agencies.

Citing the challenge to draft the report on unemployment situation, Lamgong-Wangchang MP Khandu Wangchuk, said that the committee first requested the labour ministry to share the 2016 LFSR but they were told that there was no LFSR nor its draft.

“We again requested to give us the details even if the LFSR is a draft. The response was that the cabinet did not endorse the draft and we couldn’t trust the draft report to come up with the committee’s report. We got the LFSR draft when we said that we need to know the current employment situation.”