Social and Cultural Committee presents report on Sustainable Development Goals to the NA

The Chairperson of the Social and Cultural Committee, Member from Bji-Kar-Tshog-Uesu Constituency, Ugen Tenzin, presented the report on the Sustainable Development Goal 8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth to the House on 4 February.

Reportedly, the 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development outlines a plan of action and provides a framework for sustainable development for a 15-years span, from 2015 to 2030. The agenda was adopted at the UN Sustainable Development Summit five years back which took place at the UN Headquarters in New York.

According to reports, a Rapid Integrated Policy Assessment (RIPA) carried out in 2015 is said to have revealed 143 relevant targets out of the 169 targets in the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) presented during the summit.

Of the 143 targets, 134 were integrated in the 11th FYP and the rest has been incorporated into the 12th FYP. The 12th FYP which stands with an objective of “Just, Harmonious and Sustainable Society through Enhanced Decentralization” is guided by the development philosophy of the GNH.

The 17 National Key Result Areas (NKRAs) of the 12FYP are aligned to the global SDGs.

During the briefing in NA, the chairperson reported that the national unemployment rate in Bhutan as of now is at 3.4  percent, and the youth unemployment rate at 15.7 percent as per Labour Force Survey of 2013-2018.

On the statistics report, PM and some MPs said that the reports are outdated and that a need for a better surveillance needed to be in place.

Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering stated to the floor that quarterly surveys or frequent tracking will make sure that the SDGs are implemented more effectively having a point of updated reference.

He also said that, the government is currently in talks with the National Statistics Bureau (NSB) regarding it and said that the propagated plans outcome will be evident about a few months’ time.

The NKRA 11 of the 12th FYP is said to aim at creating better assured employment opportunities through agriculture, tourism, mining, IT, hydropower and trading sectors, and NKRA 7: quality of education and skills improved is set forth towards achieving excellence in student learning outcomes and improving access to quality education, were included in the report due to direct relevance with the Sustainable Development Goal 8.

During the presentation, 4 committee recommendations were also made known, as the House deliberated on important issues regarding decent employment, education system and the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) system.

The Committee recommended that the TVET provisions for the formal sector be aligned to the opportunities in the construction, tourism and production sectors increase the practical course duration for the TVET students and improve the competencies of the lecturers.

The Committee also stated a need for a proper alignment of the TVET Blueprint and the Bhutan Education Blueprint (2014-2024) and the need for the MoLHR to enforce the Labour Law and Regulations, particularly the Regulations on Working Conditions, 2012 to ensure the employees of private sector are not exploited and additional jobs are thereby created for the jobseekers.

The House endorsed all the four recommendations made by the Committee with 40 Yes Votes, 1 No Vote and 3 Abstain out of 44 Members present and voting and referred the recommendations to the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources for further action.

Labour Minister acclaimed stating that the suggestions made were good and that they were also looking to comprehend similar areas.

Tashichhoeling MP Dil Maya Rai pointed out to the unemployment scenario for women/girls stating that, there were allegations made by TTI and TVET graduates about being the second gender choice for work despite the low number of women graduates.

Following that, Panbang MP, Dorji Wangdi said that the LFS (2018) reference is obsolete and that there was a need to monitor 4 pillars of decent work, which he addressed to the House.

The four being, equality- freedom of expression at the workplace, fairness, personal development and social integration and espirit de corps along with assurance of job roles being as per the appointment letter contents.

Maenbi Tsaenkhar MP, Choki Gyeltshen talked about the need for regular contact for employment.

Khamaed Lunana MP, Yeshey Dem pointed out that, in conversations with workshop people, they stated the during the VTI training that they receive- they work and learn by operating on Maruti or Alto but since most cars to the workshops are Prados and Honda, they are not preferred for employment as stated. “In place of them, specifically skilled workforce from outside Bhutan are hired,” she said on their behalf.

She also added that, for some teachers, there were never any transfers despite not being eligible for any in-country or ex-country training while on the job.

In regard to work conditions where people had to work for more than 8 hours a day, she suggested the MoLHR to blacklist such employers shall it be repeated.

Khatoed Laya MP, Tenzin proposed for skill enhancement of in-country labour force in order to ensure that such people can avail themselves of specific jobs in other countries.

Education Minister briefed on consolidated contracts and regular contracts while making a statement on making ‘small and compact civil servants’.

Adding to it, the Labour Minister said, “Plans are in place for phasing out with diverse innovative techniques.”

Lyonchhoen ended with a note on the employment rate, stating that, despite the statistical increase in unemployment, the unemployment of youth had fallen comparatively.

In response to women in TVET sectors, PM said that not many women are keen to take up TVET courses and even those that pass out are lesser, therefore, it quite naturally becomes that girls’ turnout is low on that.

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