The current government has around 20 months left before the 2018 General Election process starts.
Before that, in a major push to bring down youth unemployment the government is planning to hire around 11,000 youths starting from January 2017 till June 2018 in an 18th month period under its ‘Job Plan’.
As part of the first phase of this, the government is putting up a Nu 262 mn supplementary budget in the ongoing winter session. This amount meant to be for the first six months from January 2017 to June 2017 will be used to employ 4,139 youth.
In the July 2017 to June 2018 financial year budget there will be additional budgetary provision of Nu 400 mn for another 7,000 youth jobs in addition to the existing 4,139 youth jobs thus taking it up to a total of around 11,000 jobs.
The Ministry of Labour and Human Resources Secretary, Sonam Wangchuk said that the government’s aim is to ensure full employment which means only a 2.5 percent unemployment figure.
He said while the government has been maintaining this there was concern on the high youth unemployment figures within this, which was 10.7 percent for males and 12.7 percent for females. So the Job Plan of the government in addition to keeping overall unemployment low is specifically targeted at youth employment.
To get an idea of the scale of the new Job Plan the government in its first three financial years got around 19,000 youth employed and spent around Nu 480 mn of the total Nu 550 mn budgeted from the Economic Stimulus Plan for employment generation. This leaves only Nu 70 mn of the ESP budget.
By comparison in the next 18 months the ‘Job Plan’ which will be largely independent of ESP funding will see an array of methods used to employ around 11,000 using a Nu 662 mn budget.
Of the 11,000 jobs some will come from the existing schemes like Direct Employment Scheme (DES) and Overseas Employment Scheme, but to meet the target a large portion will be achieved through starting new medium and small scale State Owned Enterprises (SOEs).
So of the 4,139 jobs targeted from January to June 2017 around 1,600 will come from DES at a cost of Nu 43.45 mn and 1,329 jobs will come from the Overseas Employment Scheme at a cost of Nu 101.40 mn which are both existing schemes. This is a total of 2,929 jobs.
However, to meet the 4,139 jobs target the government will fund the salary of youth for two years in various new SOEs. These are 427 youth in Farm Machinery Corporation for Nu 39.75 mn which will lend out and maintain farm machinery for farmers and commercial farming. 207 youth will be hired in the Food Corporation as Gewog shop managers for Nu 19.41 mn so that they can buy produce from farmers and also sell them inputs.
191 youth will be hired in the Bhutan Livestock Corporation for Nu 28.45 mn to manage fisheries, poultry, piglet breeding etc. 298 youth will be hired in the Bhutan Green Corporation which will grow various seeds and maintain nurseries for both food and medicine production. 87 youth will be trained in indigenous arts and crafts by Agency for Promotion of Indigenous Crafts (APIC) for Nu 2.79 mn and then the agency will guide them to seek funding support from Rural Enterprise Development Corporation (REDCL).
In the 2017 July to 2018 June budget year the figure is even more ambitious with around 7,000 jobs aimed to be created.
The Prime Minister has been personally involved in the Job Plan and so the MoLHR has been asked to talk to the various government ministries and see what can be done outside the 11th plan. One of the areas being looked at is the Department of Roads road maintenance unit which is currently called the National Workforce. The plan is to make it into an SOE, professionalize it with additional equipment and so it would in turn be required to absorb large numbers of youth in various capacities from Engineers to heavy machine operators. Similarly every ministry would give feedback on similar initiatives to the MoLHR. Other areas like IT and Entrepreneurship is also being looked at.
The plan is that by providing the two year salary to youth in these new SOEs they would be able by then to turn it around and become self sustaining.
The Director General of the Department of Employment, Sherab Tenzin said that it has been noticed that youth are more inclined to work in the government or government corporations no matter what the position. He said the employment scheme in such a context would be more sustainable in the longer run as well.
The Job Plan would graduates and also class 10 and 12 dropouts.
The government has come out with the 11,000 jobs figure based on the number of youth coming into the job market every year.
In 2017 to 2018 budget years around 17,000 youth will be coming in of which around 10,000 are expected to be absorbed by the RCSC, Corporate Sector, Private sector, self employment and others while leaving around 7,000 without jobs. So, therefore, the 7,000 jobs being created in that financial year is an effort to provide all of them with jobs.
The Labour Secretary said some people might be alarmed with the high youth unemployment figures but globally it is a trend as it is a time of transition when youth come onto the market and start looking for jobs.
The plan is that once the SOEs are set up the private sector will be involved either through Public Private Partnerships or by offloading shares to them.