Australia, Perth

Will Bhutanese come back from Australia?

As thousands of Bhutanese leave for Australia, one major issue is, if they are lost for good along with their future children or will they be coming back?

The former President of the Association of Bhutanese in Perth Incorporated (ABPI), Tshewang Rinzin, feels that most Bhutanese will come back from Australia, as firstly people have their parents, relatives and friends in Bhutan. Secondly, their property and houses are back home, and he said the third reason is that they don’t feel like they are living in a society in Australia, as people have to even seek appointment to meet friends, as everyone is very busy.

He said in Australia once a child turns into an adult at 18 years, you can leave home. When the parents are old, they are kept in old age homes, but in Bhutan you neither want to chase out the kids or the old parents.

He said that in Australia when people die, only a few people turn up unlike in Bhutan, and there are cases where a parent or relative has died but family members ask the hospital to keep the body a day longer as everyone is too busy with work.

He said Bhutanese values are in the blood and bones.

Tshewang asserted that even if 40 percent of the Bhutanese come back from Australia, then given their exposure, they would be enough to replace all the working population who left and there would be no worry of corruption.

He said to encourage Bhutanese to come back, the ease of doing business must be improved, the practice of blacklisting or not rehiring people who leave the government or corporations must be done away with, and instead there should be three to four year contracts offered based on projects. He said there are skilled Bhutanese in Australia who can be useful in Bhutan.

He said to ensure that the Bhutanese youth in Australia can maintain social ties and links back home, there could be some exchange program, whereby Bhutanese kids in Australia can come to Bhutan and vice versa, and Bhutanese kids can learn coding and other technical subjects in Australia.

However, disagreeing with Tshewang’s assessment that Bhutanese in Australia would be coming back in significant numbers, a former Bhutanese female journalist based in Canberra said that from her observation, most Bhutanese are not coming back.

She said that the older generation may come back for retirement in the future, but most Bhutanese will be staying back in Australia.

“Once you earn money, you buy expensive things and have a lifestyle to maintain, but you cannot do that by coming back, as you cannot come back to a job that pays as much in Bhutan and there is also the issue of seniority, as people who have been out for years will not come back to start at the bottom,” she said.

She said that she had come back to Thimphu on holiday a couple of years ago, and she was shocked that eating out in Thimphu is even more expensive than in Australia. She also finds that the private school and college tuitions in Bhutan are quite high and difficult to afford for somebody working in Bhutan at an average salary.

“The thing is the living standard in Thimphu is very high. I came for holidays in Thimphu and was surprised at the amount one has to spend. I am also surprised as to how people can afford to use internet in Thimphu as it is so expensive and with every recharge my data kept finishing,” she said.

She also said that there are expectations that when one goes to Australia, one will live lavishly and have buildings, and so people always end up extending their stay there.

She said for parents, the education system gives a much better exposure and kids eventually like it better there, as schools in Bhutan overburden kids with homework and tests.

There have been instances of Bhutanese kids raised in Australia coming to Bhutan for a visit and not feeling at home, and asking their parents to go back ‘home’ to Australia soon.

The former journalist said that another factor is that once you get into Australia, it is near impossible to be sent back as people or their dependents can keep applying for courses and getting visa, and even in rare cases that a student visa is rejected, the applicant can approach the judicial system to challenge the visa rejection which can again take years as they stay in Australia.

There is also the matter of ever increasing numbers of Bhutanese getting Permanent Residency in Australia which gives you almost all the rights except for voting.

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One comment

  1. HAJIME SHIRAI

    As a Japanese engineer who has provided grassroots support for more than 20 years to support Bhutan’s social infrastructure development and engineer training projects, I am deeply concerned about the abandonment of Bhutanese people who go abroad to work. News related to Bhutanese working abroad is very useful.

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