Of late many thinking minds of the nation and its media reported unemployment figures as misleading. However, the labor minister justified how 2.1% unemployment rate is accurate and is being collected through accurate and trustworthy methods.
According to the Prime Minister’s recently delivered State Of The Nation Report unemployment rate was 2.1%, lower than the target set of 2.5%. It was credited to good policies, good governance and sustained growth rate that could meet beyond the set target on employment.
In an exclusive interview with The Bhutanese, Labor Minister Dorji Wangdi said that it’s unfortunate to claim that unemployment rate is not appropriate or believable.
He also said that there is no case of conflict of interest when Ministry of Labor and Human resources (MoLHR) produces the unemployment rate.
“In the international countries also the Labor ministry is responsible for solving unemployment and at the same time produces the official unemployment figures,” he added.
Unlike other countries, Bhutan conducts the survey only once in a year and this concerns the Labor minister and the MoLHR team.
In the United States of America, monthly unemployment report is obtained through Current Population Survey Method, which requires ICT facilities, while most countries produce it quarterly.
“Unemployment figure is not wrong but outdated since the survey was conducted last year and whole scenario in the job market has changed,” said the Labor Minister. He said that figure of last year cannot be compared with the current situation.
He added that for 2013, a survey is not allowed since elections are around the corner and Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) doesn’t allow it.
However for the next fiscal year MoLHR had proposed government to allow them to conduct survey at least twice a year.
On asking about how the figures are generated, the official from Department of Employment (DoE) under MoLHR said the unemployment figures are collected through Labor Force Survey (LFS).
“The unemployment figures are neither generated from administrative records nor the job seeker registration system,” said the DoE official.
The Labor Minister Dorji Wangdi said the survey is taken nationwide and it’s not limited to registered job seekers only.
In addition to that the Labor ministry also conducts the LFS through Household Survey Method, which the labor Minister said is the most accurate and internationally accepted method.
The DoE official also added that for LFS they use the representative sample size of 12,000 households out of 131,194 households. While the minimum sample size as per National Statistical Bureau (NSB) should be below 8,000 households.
The LFS was instituted since 1998 and become a regular activity in 2003 enabling the ministry to assess the current and emerging labor situation in the country.
The survey covers all the 20 Dzongkhags with 9,000 urban households and 3,000 rural households. More households in urban areas have been covered since urban population is more heterogeneous and the economic activities prevailing in the same are quite diverse.
The Labor Minister said that despite using internationally accepted survey method the LFS are conducted professionally based on International Standards following the definitions adopted by the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the United Nations 1993 System of National Accounts (UNSNA).
This kind of tool is prominently used by 185 countries worldwide and Labor minister said that MoLHR dosen’t use indigenous methods of survey.
In addition to that the questionnaires MoLHR set is flexible and they draft it based on the economy sectors. “Once the questions are set, NSB verifies and approves it for the survey. Therefore there is no distortion in the unemployment figures,” said the labor minister.