What’s in a num­ber!

Bhutan Times - - Editorial - Namkhai Norbu (The writer is a for­mer edi­tor of Bhutan Times & The Jour­nal­ist)

It’s heart­en­ing to see that the gov­ern­ment is mak­ing good strides on the un­em­ploy­ment front, at least that’s what the find­ings of the re­cent Na­tional Labour Force Sur­vey re­veal.

The na­tional un­em­ploy­ment rate has slightly de­clined – the fig­ure stand­ing at 2.6% as of 2014. That it has come down by 0.3 per­cent in 2014 is an as­sur­ing in­di­ca­tion.

Un­ques­tion­ably, such an out­come has been pos­si­ble be­cause of new ini­tia­tives that the gov­ern­ment has un­der­taken to ad­dress the un­em­ploy­ment is­sue in the coun­try. Ini­tia­tives such as Guar­an­teed Em­ploy­ment Pro­grams and Over­seas Em­ploy­ment Scheme have cer­tainly helped to get jobs for some of our un­em­ployed youth for the time be­ing.

Such mea­sures are short term, but it’s also an in­di­ca­tion that the gov­ern­ment is do­ing some­thing. The mere ac­knowl­edg­ment that youth un­em­ploy­ment is a ma­jor con­cern is a good begin- ning in it­self. We also need to stop com­par­ing un­em­ploy­ment sce­nario in Bhutan with other coun­tries and stop say­ing, “It isn’t that bad, here!”

Even if fig­ures are os­ten­si­bly as­sur­ing, many a time, it’s not the de­pic­tion of the real sit­u­a­tion in the job mar­ket. Some­times, it’s just the con­trary. Un­em­ploy­ment among young adults is in­creas­ingly be­com­ing a se­ri­ous is­sue. Find­ing jobs is be­com­ing dif­fi­cult in all ar­eas and it will only get worse with the in­creas­ing job­seek­ers who grad­u­ate from col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties each year.

So where do we ab­sorb them? How do we ab­sorb 3,567 grad­u­ates, who have com­pleted their pre­lim­i­nary exam and when there are just 538 slots in the civil ser­vice? While gov­ern­ment jobs will be the most sought af­ter, we need to un­der­stand that it’s not the role of the gov­ern­ment to give or of­fer em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties. The gov­ern­ment is not there to give jobs.

The gov­ern­ment should in­stead cre­ate en­abling con­di­tions and come up with pol­icy re­forms and in­ter­ven­tions that al­low the cor­po­rate and pri­vate sec­tors to grow so that they can play an in­creas­ingly im­por­tant role in fos­ter­ing eco­nomic growth and em­ploy­ment cre­ation. The pri­vate sec­tor has been en­vi­sioned as an en­gine of growth since the Sixth Five Year Plan, but it’s still in its in­fancy. The pri­vate sec­tor is in­flicted with prob­lems of all sorts – do­ing busi­nesses isn’t easy. Bu­reau­cratic rig­ma­role and ac­cess to fi­nance and credit have stunted its growth.

This is where the gov­ern­ment can in­ter­vene and cre­ate en­abling con­di­tions. For now, lay­offs and work­force re­trench­ments in the pri­vate sec­tor is more com­mon in the pri­vate sec­tor. Let’s not even talk about job cre­ation.

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