Government coming up with Build Bhutan to get Bhutanese to become professionalized construction workers
Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said that due to the COVID-19 crisis Bhutan currently has a construction labour shortage of nearly 20,000 labourers, but this shortage is only set to get even worse.
“There is around 28,000 labourers left in the market but when the Indian lockdown formally opens, I think more than half of these will leave. They are all saying they want to go back to their homes in the same way the Bhutanese want to come back to Bhutan and that is only right. At that time our already short labour force will be even more acutely short,” said Lyonchhen.
The PM said that to address this a lot of packages are being made for Bhutanese who are willing to work in the construction sector.
“This is a time where we really want people to come up and serve the government. This is a critical period for nation building. So if our youth want to volunteer and are ready to take up the job then the government will also be thankful. Working in construction is not just for them to earn their living, but it is to let projects be completed on time and it is to boost the economy or curb the downfall of our economy,” said the PM.
He said that most of the economic activities are funded by the government and of this expenditure around 90 percent is in construction.
“For us to utilize the heaviest portal of government expenditure, that is the construction industry, there is no labour force. Here, if the youth volunteer to serve the country then they will be writing their names in the history of the country. We will not take the labour on volunteer or free basis but we will also compensate,” said the PM.
Lyonchhen said that the government is coming up with the Build Bhutan project encouraging or welcoming Bhutanese to take up construction.
There will be three categories. One is unskilled or those who want to just work there to tide to over this COVID-19 period. Then there is the skilled ones like TVET graduates and those who are really interested and will be given skilling opportunities. Then there is the third group which will be the professionals like the architects and engineers, designers and planners.
The PM said he has instructed Lyonpo Ugyen Dorji to make the construction industry like a cadre system with a long-term scope.
“If you want to start there you can end your career there, and then there will be promotion for every year with skill based promotion. A system should be there whereby if one continues working there one can upgrade his earning based on his number of years and skills and at the same time there should be provision for pension and provident fund. Then the professionals will come. Right now you can’t just ask a youth to go and work with a contractor. Two months later if the contractor does not like him then he is out. That cannot happen. I have asked all this to be looked at,” said the PM.
He said that the TVET is in the transition formation stage and it is part and parcel of Build Bhutan, skilled labour, professional labour and what the MoLHR is doing.
“Through this TVET system if we can build up the skilled workforce then we will have a skilled workforce that will drive our economy. If somebody has the skill and idea then he will do something new,” said the PM.
Lyonchhen said that right now not many new things are happening because there are no people to take it up. He said private industry is not able to pick up because they are not able to invest.
He pointed out that almost all the investment, when it comes to skills, is through the imported labour force.
“This is why we are in the process of revamping the labour system so that it will create a group of skilled labour force. This group can drive the economy and bring new initiatives and through them, once we have availability of skilled manpower, we can then bring in foreign projects into the country,” said the PM
“I was telling STCBL that by now we should have some Toyota assembling units in the country. Even if we cannot make the cars we can produce some spare parts because in the supply chain one component is produced in one country and another in another country -ultimately getting assembled in one place,” said the PM
He said right now Bhutan cannot even make a bike or scooter as no institution has taken it seriously and there was no continuity.
“They all, for obvious reasons, went for profit and profit is to get cheap labour, and cheap labour is getting somebody from across the border. So there is no continuity. We should create a critical mass and through their skills we should have good institutional linkages and with linkages we get recognition and skills and then we can bring the foreign companies on our soil to produce. Then only we will have Made in Bhutan,” explained the PM.
The PM said that once Bhutan has a good labour force Bhutan should have good tie ups with first-world countries and countries with good labour laws and Bhutan can supply them with skilled labour. He said this is the way one can show that skilled labour and experts can come from Bhutan.
“We have to make something like this and if we can do it then we will be somewhere. So, I was telling Lyonpo Ugyen to build up all this in the Build Bhutan project and they have already reached advanced stages,” said the PM.
He said this initiative is not only for the COVID-19 phase but also in the post COVID-19 phase too.