Civil service- still the first choice for jobseekers

11th FYP HRD master plan

The human resource development master plan drawn by the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources (MoLHR) for the next five years shows the first choice of employment by the jobseekers is the government sector.

There is significant difference in educational attainment across the broad sectors. Therefore, the civil service generally attracts and employs the most qualified personnel. Second preference is the public corporation, where the salary scale and associated perks are higher than in civil service.

Out of an estimated 13,303 people with university level education, 7,496 (58%) are in the civil service, 1,549 (12%) are in the government corporations, and only 35551 (27%) are in the private sector establishments. Agriculture is no longer an option for the most school leavers. However, there is an estimated 350 university graduates in the agriculture sector. Considering that there was only 100 university graduates engaged in this sector in 2006, this shows some interesting development.

In terms of gender, labour force participation in agriculture has the highest portion of female employees comprising of 62% of the sector’s labour force. Followed by the private sector with 42% female employees and finally in the government with only 25% female employees. This is the result of less female enrollment in schools in the past. The gap in enrollment has now been closed at the primary and secondary levels, and this is expected to help improve the girl’s enrollment ratio at the higher educational level. This should overtime impact positively in the gender distribution across the employment sectors.

The three key agencies involved in education and training in the country are the Ministry of Education (MoE), Ministry of Labour and Human Resources (MoLHR) and Royal University of Bhutan (RUB). Their respective programs are described by the figure. Most of the education and training institutes are public provision although there is an increasing level of private participation in the training and the higher education sub-sectors. The government has consistently been spending 16% of its budgets on human resource development activities, during the last five years.

While the constraints in human resources development in Bhutan have been easy to define and predict, effective planning to address the constraints has been problematic. Traditionally, human resource development, be it education or training had a strong focus on building a strong civil service. This is one factor, and consequently the inability of the private sector to compete with the attractions offered by the civil service, the peculiar social milieu that continues to embrace and even unconsciously promote deep rooted prejudices against menial and non-desk jobs, and the abiding deficiencies of the Bhutanese education system in developing intellect and creativity amongst its scholars continue to frustrate the efforts of HRD for the private sector.

While higher level skills and knowledge may represent the single most important constraints to the industrial development, the industries themselves are not able to recognize this because of these very deficiencies.

Ultimately, the labour force in Bhutan is shaped not by government policies and programs, but the individual obsession to upgrade to a higher level of profession in the increasingly stratified society. The conflict between government policy intent and actual outcomes can be illustrated at school education, higher education and technical education.

For general education, the government made a conscious decision to provide universal 11 years of basic education till class X. At the same time it limited the free scholarships for higher secondary to 40% of those completing class X. The intent was that this would force many students to take up vocational course in the TTIs established for this purpose.

In practice, a majority of the class X passed graduates are finding ways to continue their academics, most of them in the private higher secondary schools, some repeating, while some even study outside the country. Of the 2011 class X cohort, 71% continued their studies (40% in public and 31% in private), 11% did not get their certificates out of which many would be repeating, and only 18% left the school systems.

In TVET subsector, the conflict is much more pronounced. While there were an estimated 1,800 grade X passed students leaving the schooling system, the numbers that eventually entered the TTIs were only 415. This was despite the numerous programs established to make TVET more attractive.

After higher secondary or class XII, the number of seats in the RUB put a similar restriction to tertiary level education. But here too, people who do not qualify for RUB courses or scholarship find ways of financing their own studies, some enrolling in rather shady colleges in the region established just for such students. This combined with the RUB’s expansion in response to perceived industrial demands will result in the number of annual University graduates tripling between 2012 and 2017, leading to oversupply in many of the disciplines. This can result in serious educated unemployment issues of course, the private sector is able to respond to these new opportunities, but with its present mindset and the education profile of its managers, this is quite unlikely.

It is suggested that for future HRD programs, the government establish greater control over the scholarships and trainings. Two actions are proposed; first is to negotiate with the main donors for the courses of priority to the private sector and develop an implementation plan for them. In the likelihood that this does not materialize fully, and second action is to set aside government’s own resources for the core HRD identified under the plan.

HRD planning will remain, at best, an academic exercise and not really a plan one can pursue. This has happened in the 9th FYP where only 57.2% of the slots were implemented spending 44.2% of the planned budget. The 10th FYP HRD Master plan which made a critical note of this system did not fare any better, resulting in only 33% of the slots being implemented using 50% of the planned budget.

The other aspects of education and training in the country are the donor supported fellowships, both short-term and long -term. This will continue to prevail and all the establishments can compete for these resources as has been the practice.

To match the demand and supply of the human resources, the needs assessment should ideally be done by the market/ industry. By establishing a mechanism where the government HRD plans for the private sectors is informed by the industry, the issue of mismatch and effective HRD can be achieved.

The MoLHR and other line ministries should work to develop environment conducive for such system to be installed.

The capacity of the industry associations has to be enhanced to take this responsibility of carrying out the needs assessment of the sectors / industries that they represent. Even the current organization of the industry association needs to be re-structured.

The slots by level of training for in-service and pre- service for the year 2013: Master and Post Graduate for in service, there are 178 slots and for pre-service, there is no slots for undergraduate as it accounts to 0 slots for in-service, and for pre-service it comes to 385 slots, diploma has 99 slots for in- service and 830 slots for pre-service, for certificate level, it has 192 slots for in-service and 13,354 slots for pre-service, short-term training for in-service, it has 1,396 slots and for pre-services, it has 150 slots. The total slots for in-service accounts to 1865 and for pre-service it comes to 14,719 slots in total. The allocation of total slots for in-service comes to 11% and it’s 89% for pre-service.

In 2013, there will be 4,546 school leavers from class seven to ten and from class eleven and twelve, there will be 2,262 school leavers. The estimate of annual graduates for year 2012 was at 1,743 and for the year 2013 there are 3,251 graduates.

The total training program comes to 2,304. The space for private sector comes to 4,505 and the existing capacity is 3,381.

The labour force participation in accordance to the labour force survey 2012 shows 67% labour force participation which translates to 336,391 employed, out of which 23,909 are engaged in the civil service sector, which translates to 7.1% of the labour force. Though the erstwhile National HRD plans were designed to meet the human resource requirement in the government sector, the current trend of labour absorption being in the private sector will continue to grow, thus necessitating tertiary education reforms and HRD intervention to address this issue.

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