Bhutanese going abroad are a concern



MB Subba

Due to the increase in the number of Bhutanese citizens living abroad, the country has seen a sharp increase in foreign remittances, which strengthens the foreign exchange reserve and reduces the current account deficit.

However, this growing trend has become a concern for the country, given the small population and the declining fertility rate, which stands at 1.7, well below the replacement rate of 2.1.

More than 15,904 Bhutanese were living abroad in 88 countries as of December 22, 2021, according to the State of the Nation report; 5,417 of them live in Australia.

About 300 Bhutanese left for Australia last month, according to records from the ticketing companies. Officials said, however, that concrete data was not available.

The government said an in-depth study of Bhutanese citizens moving and living abroad was underway to chart “a way forward”.

Labor and Human Resources Minister Karma Dorji said most people go abroad on student visas and could contribute to “brain development” if they return to the country after their studies. .

Lyonpo, however, added that it was a concern if people were leaving for permanent residence (PR) or with the intention of living abroad for a long time.

“We do not have concrete data on such issues,” he said, adding that a way forward would be based on the findings of the study.

Lyonpo Karma Dorji said economic diversification and industry transformation is needed to retain people in the country.

Opposition leader Dorji Wangdi said it was of “great concern” for the country to lose citizens to developed countries at a time when the fertility rate has declined.

About 99 percent of those who go abroad, he said, were from the economically active section of the population. “This will have implications for economic development and will further lower the fertility rate,” he said.

He said the sending of funds would create a “false economy”. He explained that GDP growth would not necessarily be fueled by the growth of the country.

At NU 8.27 billion (B), remittances in 2020 contributed around 4.82% of GDP, making it the highest remittance inflow to date. According to the Royal Monetary Authority, the amount was higher than the payment for the previous three years combined.

The trend, Dorji Wangdi said, could inflate house prices and widen the gap between the rich and the poor at home, as has happened in countries like the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Nepal.

“The government cannot prevent people from going abroad but should create conditions conducive to employment through entrepreneurship rather than salaried jobs,” he said, adding that not enough was not made to hold people back.

Observers say the tendency of people to move abroad indicates a lack of economic development and the government has failed to create opportunities in the country.

The GDP growth rate fell to an all-time low of -10.08% in 2020 and, as a result, the gross national income (GNI) was -7.23%. The overall unemployment rate rose to 5% over the same period.

For some young people, leaving the country is not an option.

A 28-year-old man who returned home in 2020 after working in the hospitality industry in India said he had to return to India after his efforts to find a job in Bhutan failed. He said some employers in the country wanted to pay wages that were not enough to live a decent life.

Some of the Bhutanese working abroad said the pandemic affected their income.

A graduate working in Kuwait said she received reduced wages when the Covid-19 pandemic hit businesses in 2020. However, she said she could save around 50,000 Nu per month once the company began to pay him a full salary.

She said she would start a business when she returned home.

The Royal Institute of Management (RIM) launched the Test of English as a Foreign Language on the Internet (TOEFL IBT) as a replacement for the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

However, sources have said that it is difficult to reserve a seat at RIM as the number of people aspiring to go abroad is large.

According to the consulting firms, most of their clients are between the ages of 23 and 45 and come from both the public and private sectors.

An official at one of Thimphu’s consulting firms said that many people aspiring to go overseas but failed to secure a seat at RIM were trying to travel to India to take the IELTS and Pearson Test of English (PTE).


Previous Bucks County New Years Career Fair next week at Neshaminy Mall
Next Norway introduces entry quarantine for more EU travelers