Bhutan Youth Seeking Opportunities Abroad Amid Unemployment Crisis

In the wake of unsuccessful attempts at the Bhutan Civil Service Examinations and countless job applications, many young Bhutanese individuals are exploring opportunities abroad, seeking to overcome the rising tide of unemployment in the country.

One such individual, now 26, recalls his four-year-long struggle to secure a job after graduating, which ultimately drove him to migrate to Australia. “It wasn’t my first choice to move abroad. I had dreams of working in Bhutan. Yet, the circumstances and lack of job prospects left me with little choice,” he remarked, expressing hope to return if the situation in Bhutan improves.

Recent statistics paint a bleak picture. The 2022 Labour Force Survey Report (LFSR) indicates a sharp rise in the youth unemployment rate, from 20.9 percent in the previous year to 28.6 percent. Of the young population, 8,496 were actively job hunting, often in vain.

Like him, 23-year-old Chimi Wangmo found herself venturing to Australia after numerous job applications and interviews proved fruitless in Bhutan. “If not for my commitment to de-suung, I would have left earlier,” she stated. Wangmo believes that the shortage of job prospects in Bhutan was the main driver for her departure, rather than the allure of a better life abroad.

The civil service, historically a beacon of stable employment, is currently oversaturated. Although the private sector is absorbing many young professionals, concerns about wage discrepancies with the government sector persist. By July 2023, while 1,126 vacancies were declared in the civil service, a whopping 1,772 youths registered for the Bhutan Civil Service Examinations.

With the data from the LFSR 2022 revealing that only 15 percent of the employed youth work in governmental bodies, it underscores the vast employment potential yet untapped in the private sector.

Dechen Yangzom Dema, after a five-year stint in Australia, returned to Bhutan in 2019 only to face formidable challenges in kickstarting her business. Citing a lack of systematic support and accountability, she lamented the unsustainability of wages in Bhutan, emphasizing that a monthly wage of Nu 30,000 is crucial to maintain a decent quality of life. “Without the potential to elevate one’s standard of living, what’s the incentive to work?” she queried.

A recent graduate in hotel management highlighted the dearth of job opportunities even for those in specialized fields. Frustrated by the limited salary offerings in Bhutan’s hospitality industry, she shared her aspirations to move to Australia for better remuneration.

These narratives shed light on a pressing issue: the exodus of young talent seeking opportunities elsewhere. As Bhutan grapples with this ‘brain drain,’ innovative solutions are essential to ensure that its youth can thrive within its borders.

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