Starting 1st October, the National COVID-19 Taskforce has given the approval to continue with the normal process of importing foreign laborers.
This means the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources (MoLHR) is now approving the import of foreign laborers, and the employers have to go to their respective COVID-19 Taskforces, to get the details on availability of quarantine facilities.
However, the ministry has limited the number to 50 percent to begin with, as there is a limitation of quarantine facilities.
Labour Minister, Karma Dorji, said that only for those who have an approval prior to 6 March 2020 will be given the first priority, and this is to clear the backlog. Those who have applied after the date will have to wait.
“There is no priority given to the government or to the private sectors, or to the hydropower projects. Those in the backlog will be cleared first. The role of the ministry is just to give the approval while the taskforce and the health ministry will decide on if to reduce the number of days in quarantine or anything related to COVID protocol,” he added.
The validity of the approved application is extended to 6 months now, from just one-month timeframe before 1 October. The one month time was seen as too less because by the time the laborers come out from quarantine centers, it would be almost one month, and if it exceeds the one month timeframe, then the employer cannot bring in the laborers.
Therefore, it is increased to six months to give fair opportunities to the employers. During the COVID period, Lyonpo said that due to lack of quarantine facility and to outsource people from outside, the approval validity has been extended to six months.
The ministry has been giving its approvals on a daily basis, and on an average, there will be an entry of 300 to 400 foreign laborers.
Meanwhile, Lyonpo said, “When it comes to expenditure, the employer will have to bear all the expenses, like before. The charges per night in the quarantine facility are yet to decide, but for now, I heard its Nu 150 or Nu 450 per night. Before, it used to be Nu 1,000 per night in hotels. National Taskforce might decide on this matter.”
The country’s economy has been hit hard due to limited numbers of construction works, and this has happened because local contractors were not ready to take up local workers.
The country’s economy is said to improve, as various construction works will soon start with the import of foreign laborers. If there are 50 percent of foreign laborers the local contractors might then intake local laborers, and thereby, the economy activities might begin, Lyonpo added.
The ministry is also working on various programs to keep the local labor market encouraged and on track, even after import of foreign laborers.
Lyonpo said, “We have to somehow run the country’s economy, and when our Bhutanese workers are not keen to take up the jobs, then it is fair enough to allow foreign laborers at cheaper rates. Nevertheless, we are trying to fit in local workers wherever they are interested in.”