The PM meets the Bhutanese community in Doha, Qatar

Six Graduates in Qatar share why they left and what would make them come back

The focus so far has mainly been on the large numbers of students leaving for Australia, but on the other hand there is also a silent and significant migration happening to the Middle-East.

Qatar has around 1,000 Bhutanese and a lot of them have come recently. When the Prime Minister Dasho (Dr) Lotay Tshering in a gathering with around 200 Bhutanese asked them how many had come in the last one year, the majority raised their hands.

While this would also include those coming back after the pandemic, there are also a large number of new arrivals who are finding Qatar and other countries in the middle-east an attractive destination.

Also, contrary to popular perception that the middle-east is a destination for class 10 and 12 drop outs, the paper found that around 70 percent of those who are in Qatar are graduates.

The Bhutanese here work overwhelming in the service sector which is hotels, restaurants, shops, cafes, some cleaning jobs etc.

The advantage for the Bhutanese youth coming here are their comparatively higher level of education and so this at least puts them above the tough menial work like construction labourers.

This is a blessing as currently many construction workers do not have work after the World Cup, but the service sector is still doing well.

The reporter talked to six Bhutanese in Qatar on why they left Bhutan and what would make them come back. They are all graduates.

Why they left?

Sonam is 29 years old and works in retail. He said, “I mainly left due to economic reasons. There are opportunities in Bhutan for business but even then the problem is access to finance. We need capital to work without which we cannot work. I tried to do business but it did not work out.”

Deki is 28 years old and works in the Fashion Apparel sector.  She said, “Employment opportunities were there in Bhutan but it was limited due to our college course (ILCS). The other reason is my friends came here and so I also wanted to experience once.”

She said she is interested in business and so she came here to pick up skills so that she can take that back and invest. She also wanted to get exposure and travel.

“The income is there but the living standard is so high in Thimphu that it becomes hand to mouth,” complained Deki.

Kinley Dorji of age 26 works in Starbucks.  After graduating from college he worked for a year in Bhutan in tourism, but after that due to COVID there was no work in tourism.

“Due to my education background in Hotel Management there was no work and so I served for two years as a Desuup. After that it was not enough and so I felt it is better to go outside,” said Kinley.

Tsewang who is 26 years old also works in Starbucks.  She wanted to get experience and learn something new. She did not get through the Preliminary Exams of the RCSC but passed the GRA and came to Qatar.

Tshering Lhaden who is also 26 years old works in retail.  After graduation she like many tried for RCSC and PE and did not get it.

“I could not return to the village as my family spent so much money on me and so I needed to get a small job at least.  I applied for jobs but they all were looking for people with work experience,” said Tshering.

She said in Thimphu she neither had relatives to stay with and did not even have a stable job and the little money she made was just enough to pay rent and so this was not acceptable for her.

Jigme aged 31 is a restaurant manager. He said the living standards is better here and work is on a monthly basis and not hourly basis. “We don’t have to study, we have our secure job and are free after work,” said Jigme

He said the living standard in Bhutan is getting more expensive every year as last time when he came for a visit to Bhutan he bought a Vaseline he used to buy at Nu 5 at Nu 70.

He said a big concern for Bhutanese here in Qatar is the rate of inflation in Bhutan.

What needs to change?

Sonam said one thing that needs to change is the ease of doing business which will attract people. The other is investment.

“It is easier to do business in Doha than in Bhutan. Almost 90 percent of the business is done by outsiders in Doha while the locals live off the rent,” said Sonam.

He said the other thing is salary as the government pay is not enough. “If changes come due to transformation, we are ready to come back,” said Sonam.

Deki said the salary needs to improve not only in the government sector but also in the private sector. She said the pay should be enough to survive and maintain a living standard

“We need a platform to come back and invest our skills. There is big difference in how we do business in Qatar and how it is done in Bhutan. Here when you open a store it has to be of a certain standard, and the management is also very professional. I want an avenue to bring this knowledge back and invest,” said Deki.

Kinley Dorji said it would be good if the government can provide access to loan without interest. “Then the youths in middle east have the ideas and knowledge for business like café etc and they can come back and start a business,” said Kinley.

Tsewang wants to learn and run her own business back in Bhutan. “I want to do a different business from the usual grocery and bar shops there. I am saving a little money. Once I get educated on my sector and I know I can do it then I will come back to Bhutan,” she said.

Tsewang said that on the loan part they cannot expect it without interest, but if it can be reduced.

Tshering Lhaden said the working environment between Bhutan and Qatar is so different.

“In Bhutan people say they feel cold and get up at 7 or 8 am only and open shops at 9.

Here there is no excuses and one has to stay from 6 or 7 in the morning to late evening and we work 13 to 14 hours’ even,” she said.

“Here you need to work hard. You become more confident and mature here. If we apply the rules and experience from here in Bhutan, then Bhutan will develop more,” Tshering added.

Tshering Lhaden said in Bhutan blue collar jobs like sales and restaurant is looked down and youths don’t take it, but here in Qatar they end up doing the same jobs.

“The salary here is better but we can do the same in Bhutan provided there is a minimum salary up there then many would be interested. Here quite frequently when people come under a lot of pressure they say they prefer to work in Bhutan if they at least get around Nu 20,000,” said Tshering.

She said it is not easy here and very difficult and they have to work day and night.  “We are ready to come back if the economy is stable,” added Tshering.

Jigme said he wants the system to change. The system there is different. “We need to work smart and think smart and the country can come forward.”

He said while the government is bringing changes but they are losing youths from the country and this is the biggest concern.

“We stay outside but we love our country a lot. When we see our trees and our land from the plane, only we know how happy we feel,” said Jigme.

“We learn about cleanliness in restaurants by staying here. We have BAFRA in Bhutan but they cannot control our restaurants. Here they can control it. The workers should have a medical certificate. There are food inspectors. So even we can do it in Bhutan,” said Jigme.

He said people start work in Bhutan but after one or two weeks there is no consistency and hence no impact.

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