To address the unemployment issue in the country and to substitute for foreign laborers, the Build Bhutan Project (BBP) with a total budget outlay of Nu 1.040 bn was launched.
The project intends to to mobilize, create and manage a pool of skilled workforce to meet the requirements in the construction sector.
It aims to promote the construction sector as an attractive avenue for employment and design and develop attractive incentives to attract and retain workforce in the construction sector.
The restriction on entry of foreign workers immediately after the outbreak of COVID-19 has created a large workforce gap in the sector. As per the Labour Administration System with Ministry of Labour and Human Resources (MoLHR), the total demand for foreign workers in the construction sector across the country was estimated at 35,567 as of June 2020.
Out of this, there is a demand for 18,838 skilled workers and 16,729 unskilled workers. In addition, as a result of the restriction, the supply for both skilled and unskilled workers is short by 7,405 and 7,090 respectively, making the total shortage of foreign workers at 14,495.
Meanwhile, a total of 21,921 people could potentially enter the construction sector which includes registered unemployed, laid off employees, employees on un-paid leave and overseas returnees.
Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said that it was worrisome and stressful to see number of people adding towards existing unemployment rate, some losing their jobs and some coming back from abroad as the situation worsens due to COVID-19.
BBP is planned as a one-year pilot project, Lyonchhen said.
The additional incentive is to make them stay in the field for long, and to encourage them for taking up the job at construction sites.
He said, “There will be some budgetary issue with the start up, however, it does not matter, unless we can address unemployment issue in the country and make them skilled. Though youths are trained in certain area, they do not have the opportunity to showcase their talent.”
The project will engage about 7,000 individuals over a period of two years, of which 6,702 will be provided with skilling, re-skilling and up-skilling in construction trades leading to national certification.
They have the provision of social security and incentives like wage top-up (15 percent), personal protective equipment and worker uniform and provident fund (5 percent by employer and 10 percent by BBP).
The individuals engaged under the program will be paid wage top up by government based on levels of skills. Individuals opting for the skilling program to be carried out in the Technical Training Institutes will get a monthly stipend of Nu 6,000 in addition to free food and accommodation.
As per MoLHR, possible wage package for engineers will be at a minimum of Nu 22,000 per month. Likewise, diploma holders will be paid Nu 19,800, NC3 will be paid Nu 18,150, NC2 will be given Nu 16,500 and unskilled laborers will earn Nu 13,200.
Labour and Human Resources Minister, Ugyen Dorji, said that the ministry is studying on how to work with the private sector and development partners to not only help them resume their construction work, but to help them address the various problems that has to do with the shortage of foreign laborers.
He said, “It is very risky and ambitious initiative that we are embarking on but the reality is, if not now, then I think we will never be able to do this. I think there has to be certain shift of mindset for those of us in the government sector, among those working in construction sector and the society at large.”
“We need 30,000 labourers for major works. And in that scenario it is not practical to somehow assume that they will be able to meet the requirement from within the country, even if all of our people are ready to take up (the jobs),” Lyonpo added.