In an almost ironical situation the Prime Minister recently said that Bhutan needs around 48,000 workers to fulfill its manpower shortage.
However, in the same speech he also said that around 30,000 Bhutanese need to be given jobs due to COVID-19.
It is clear that Bhutan has more than enough jobs for the 30,000 or so with 18,000 more to spare.
The labour shortage will only go up as the government carries out more developmental activities and as the hydro projects and other national projects require more manpower.
The vast majority of these jobs pay fairly well or even quite well and even in the worse case it is much better than doing nothing and staying at home.
However, the traditional problem of Bhutanese looking down on blue collar jobs is still a barrier.
While an increasing number of Bhutanese are getting out of this mentality, the vast majority still hold that wrong attitude.
The CDCL is now the gold standard of Bhutanese in construction where a Bhutanese team is undertaking major works and doing well. However, the same CDCL during its inception saw its Bhutanese workers covering their faces. That embarrassment has now been replaced with pride.
From the CDCL example it is clear that the path to getting Bhutanese into blue collars jobs is not just speeches from politicians, but it is more about providing decent working conditions, fair pay, a future in the profession and a sense of professionalism.
It will be unrealistic and unfair to expect our Bhutanese youth to overnight become like foreign labourers.
Another issue that we may have to look at is on how we treat foreign labourers and their living conditions. While they may be getting decent pay, it is their treatment that makes an impression on Bhutanese youth.
For those who are willing a barrier is skills and so there should be opportunities to skill them well.
Until we resolve these issues we can have high unemployment and labour shortage at the same time.
No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity
Martin Luther King, Jr.