The huge rush of young Bhutanese and even mid-career professionals to Australia has become a major talking point these days.
A closer look at this will reveal some important issues in Bhutan and around the world.
One of the obvious conclusions is that the youth in Bhutan do not see a future for themselves in the country and are hence rushing out. The country is neither able to provide the jobs or quality of jobs that youth aspire for.
Some of the blame for this must be laid at the door of our governments’ obsession with hydropower as the solution to all problems from 2008 onwards until recently.
This would be the lost decade where the entire government machinery focused on hydropower and rested easy giving only lip service to the private sector. This meant an underdeveloped and weak private sector for which we are paying the price today.
A new and growing trend in the Australia rush is that there are many people opting to settle down in Australia with their family instead of coming back. The main reason apart from better earning is better education and health services.
This shows that we need to improve our health and education systems by leaps and bounds.
At the same time what must also be acknowledged is that while there is a push factor for migration there is a pull factor too.
Even as Bhutan has developed and living standards today are far better than in the past, the process of globalization has exposed our citizens to not only new desires and wants, but also the greener pastures to achieve them.
In that sense, His Majesty’s advice and efforts in improving our education system, our government services and trying to bring Bhutan into a digital economy is absolutely crucial.
We need to not only provide better opportunities for our youth so that they don’t have to migrate out, but at the same time accept that a large majority cannot afford to migrate out. For them, economic opportunities must be provided for in Bhutan itself with a better education system and other reforms.
We cannot and should not stop people from migration. We have to give them a better life at home. Migration is a process, not a problem.
William L. Swing