The Unemployment debate

The disastrous Brexit vote that saw Britain exiting the European Union, was fueled due to long standing- but incorrect perceptions.

One, was that Britain had no control over immigration and huge numbers were coming in, which was not true.

The other was that Britain was losing more to the EU than gaining from it financially. This, as the British are now finding out, was also untrue.

These popular perceptions, which already existed in British society, was further fanned by many politicians, partisan media houses and commentators -despite all the evidence to the contrary.

Very few dared to take a stand against such a popular ‘perception,’ even though it was not supported by numbers and facts.

This is not unique to Britain, but exists in some form or the other in many countries.

In Bhutan this ‘perception’ issue can be seen in the form of the hue and cry over ‘youth unemployment’.  The data simply does not support the perception of youth desperately looking for jobs -but not getting one.

The recent detailed PHCB survey found that there are 5,371 unemployed youth. However, the Labour Ministry has advertised 6,373 job unfilled job vacancies.

Before one starts talking about the quality of these jobs, it is important to note that the vacancies include 586 State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) jobs where graduates can start at a minimum pay of Nu 15,000 a month along with job security and other benefits.  However, youth don’t want these jobs as they don’t entail a managerial position or a ‘civil service like’ desk job.

Bhutan’s employment rate is 2.4 percent and in most parts of the world this low rate would lead to concerns of labour shortage.

If SOE’s can’t hire youth at decent pay packages, then Bhutan’s private sector is in deep trouble given the ground reality of the difficulty in filling up even skilled and well paying positions.

It is time that all the stakeholders in Bhutan start looking at the numbers and facts on unemployment, instead of letting outdated perceptions and rhetoric take us to a place where we don’t want to be.

“If you have a job without any aggravations, you don’t have a job.”
Malcolm S. Forbes

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