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Youth are the builders of tomorrow. The more care and attention the government bestows on them, the rich and prosperous the nation would be. For a healthier economy, fairer society and stronger democracy youth must be the top priority. Today’s youth is probably the most educated generation of all time; even so, the youth unemployment rate is regarded as one of the toughest problems in many countries. As in Carlyle’s words “A man willing to work, and unable to find work, is perhaps the saddest sight that fortune’s inequality exhibits under the sun.” It not only haunts young people who are struggling to find a job, it also imposes a heavy  price  on  the economies and societies at large.

Bhutan is undergoing a state of transition, from monarchy to constitutional democracy and culture and tradition to social modernization. Bhutan is admired worldwide for its living spiritual and the rigorous pursuit of Gross National Happiness as the guiding principle of development. However, the pursuit of Happiness is not without its casualties. As modernity and consumerism take hold, Bhutan is facing a host of problems. Amongst many others youth unemployment is a serious issue. Despite the consistent efforts of the governments and concerned authorities, the challenging youth problems are on constant rise. According to the UNDP, Bhutan’s youth unemployment rate of 7.3 % is one of the highest in the region. The number of young people graduating  from colleges or completing their schooling and entering the labor market has reached alarming figures and for too many of them the transition to work is problematic. Given the already high unemployment rates implies that new entrants to the labor market will not be able to enroll in productive employment unless properly equipped with appropriate skills.

Youth unemployment in Bhutan is mostly concentrated among the educated as a result of the incapability of the poor economy to create new job opportunities sufficient to accommodate the annual increase in the job seekers, which is largely composed of young people entering the job market for the first time after obtaining their first stage of higher studies. It is also due to lack of consistency between the outcomes of the educational system and the needs and demands of the job market in terms of various specializations and skills. In fact, the economic growth over the last decade did not contribute to a growth in youth employment, though there was a vast growth in demand for manual labor. Bhutanese young people are getting educated and do not want to figure out as farmers or laborer in the construction industry.

While in that respect are many causes behind the youth unemployment rate, causes stem from issues related to the structure of job and labor market to education. The high unemployment rate of youth can be partly attributed to the limited relevance of education and skills development to the needs of the labor market; to the practical absence of effective systems of public employment agencies; underdevelopment of the private sector; rapid population growth (more than 60% of the total population is youth); substantial growth of school enrolment; rising trend of rural-urban migration; limited employment relevant education and training that results in  young  people leaving school without the skills requisite for employment and the expectations of high salary on the part of the educated youth entering the economy; in addition to the slowdown in economic activities due to shortfall of Indian Rupee and soaring of external debt lately.

Bhutan is in an age of social transition and young people’s failure to start their career will not only lead to waste of human resources but also possibly trigger serious social problems.  For instance, the lack of decent job exposes young people to high levels of economic uncertainty. Some serious consequences of youth unemployment and insecurity are linked to the exclusion of young  people  from  a  productive  role  in  the  adult  world  of  work  that  could  demoralize  them, undermine social  cohesion  and  lead  to  social  problems  such as  crime, drug  abuse, vandalism, prostitution, etc. which bring disharmony in the society.

Being unemployed for a longer period could bring serious frustration to the young people. It is absolutely damaging to their self-esteem and moral that may hamper their positive contribution to the society. They may begin to question their abilities and  gradually  decline  to  make  further contact with society. These agitated youth wanders around and dive into drugs, alcohol and all varieties of substance abuse or unethical behaviors causing trouble and then end up in jails. Not to mention a considerate amount of money has to be spent in supporting the unemployed.

Such patterns will persist in the future if no holistic approach is initiated to alter the employment situation. As for measures, the government bears the highest responsibility of providing the youth with effective solutions. It has become really important to address the social and economic challenges confronted by the youth in order to help them  become  productive  and  responsible citizens of the country.

Education and training are a major instrument, if not the instrument for enhancing the employability, productivity and income earning capacity of youth. Young people  need  broad, general, employable skills combined with training in specific skills and exposure to the world of work that will ease the movement from school to the work. Studies indicate that employment issues are increasingly influenced by the level and quality of education and training and by their relevance to labor market demands and opportunities. The mechanisms such as apprenticeships, alternating training and the involvement of young people in the working world during their schooling, would also play a vital role in their future employability. Along with, the government can formulate and amend the policy framework to improve youth employment  and encourage entrepreneurship and self-employment. It is often said that youth is the ‘Wealth’ of the nation. It is true in every sense of the word. The term wealth must not, however, be understood as the material wealth. The core of this wealth is about character and it is the character that the elders, parents, teachers and so on should try to inculcate among youth. This is the reason why it is important to lay emphasis on character building in schools where the foundations of good citizenship are laid. A youth with a healthy character will adopt the right mindset: positive in outlook and global in ambition. For optimism stems not from denying change, but from recognizing the possibilities it presents.

The lack of information on the labor market status with regard to employment, job vacancies and training requirements resulted in the current chaotic situation with the mismatch between demand and supply of labor. In other parts of the world, the unemployed youth gets the help of specialized offices to identify appropriate jobs that are commensurate with their education and skills- including retraining to facilitate entry to labor markets. They also obtain unemployment benefits that cover subsistence living and prevent them from falling into the poverty trap. Such measures can be best practiced with the establishment of a job market information center that can provide all types of jobs demanded in the local market with regular updates on vacancies and projections for new jobs that will be opened in the near future.

Youth unemployment has been growing; the financial crisis can’t take all the blame. Combating it requires to challenge conventional wisdom: by removing, where possible disincentives to hire and to work; by reforming educational institutions; by ramping up apprenticeships and mentoring. Teachers and parents, business leaders and policy makers all have a crucial part to play. Youths! There has never been a better time to be young; the universe is exploding with opportunity, every day, new inventions answer questions that were never thought to ask.

Happy Blogging!


Suman Samal said...

Beautiful piece of writing......

Dorji Penjor said...

Thank you Suman for visiting my blog... It has been dormant for sometime now..

Anonymous said...

Fantastic paper but do you any graphs that shows this growing problem in Bhutan.
If u find one can u plz put it in the comment below.
Thank you.

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