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A โ€˜holistic, strategic, and collaborative wayโ€™ to tackle youth unemployment

Puran Gurung

The UNDP-MoLHR report โ€œAddressing the Youth Unemployment Challenge in Bhutan through a Systemic Portfolio-Based Approachโ€ proposes a portfolio of integrated solutions to tackle youth unemployment in a โ€˜holistic, strategic, and collaborative wayโ€™.

UNDP-MoLHR report points that Bhutan has been facing the challenge since 2005, and that a majority of the population are youths, and creating a vibrant labour market to not just hold a job but a meaningful one is a grand challenge.  

The report findings project skills mismatch, lack of economic diversification, societal beliefs and values as some of the challenge areas.

To understand and tackle youth employment, the report states that silver-bullet thinking and siloed interventions do not generate required change. Rather, the report says Bhutan needs portfolios of complementary, interconnected interventions acting in parallel on multiple points with coalitions of actors working towards a shared orientation. A portfolio approach is needed to test hypotheses, leverage interconnections between different interventions, generate intelligence from the system, and continuously learn and adapt. A framework that supports horizontal layered rather than a funnelling approach.

According to the report to address youth unemployment, interventions including skill transition, vibrant entrepreneurship, private sector growth, female labour force participation, inclusive employment, mission oriented policy and program, career counselling and mentorship program, will help to close gaps such as mismatch of skills, lack of economic diversity and social norms, blue-collar jobs stigma and also high preference for civil service sector.

Some other interventions are digital engagement platform, human centric approach to job portal system, entrepreneurship learning management system.

Labour Minister, Karma Dorji points that the economically productive population of Bhutan is challenged by demands of the emerging job market and economic landscapes. โ€œThis has resulted in an increasing trend of unemployment, and in particular, youth unemployment,โ€ said Lyonpo Karma Dorji.

Lyonpo further added that the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources is tasked to create enabling conditions to smooth out the labour market complexities, and underscores the importance of holistic approach to address these complexities. โ€œLabour market issues cannot be resolved with siloed approaches targeting only particular points in the web of complexities. Perhaps, this fact has undermined the current interventions of the Ministry to regulate and facilitate the labour market effectively,โ€ Highlighted Lyonpo Karma Dorji.

According to UNDP Resident Representative, Azusa Kubota, the report presents a mix of long-term and short-term interventions for systemic and transformational change. โ€œThese solutions are critical for creating โ€˜enabling environmentsโ€™ to harness the potential of young people. They will also help address the root causes of fixed mindsets on public sector jobs and the view of โ€˜state as the providerโ€™ of services and solutions,โ€ said UNDP Resident Representative, Azusa Kubota.

Highlighting some of the solutions such as the digital engagement platform, human centric approach to job portal system, entrepreneurship learning management system, technopreneurs meet, she said that these solutions have already been experimented and implemented by various agencies in partnership with UNDP. โ€œI look forward to seeing more solutions being tested and scaled up. UNDP stands committed to supporting efforts to translate this report into actions and transformational results,โ€ said Azusa Kubota.

Meanwhile, the strategy formulated by the report is to be taken as orientation for system transformation.

To implement the approach, the report recommends to maintain or possibly expand the portfolio task force, balance long-term and short-term success, other stakeholders must come to unite to implement the portfolios, prioritize monitoring and evaluation in the pursuit of strategic planning, and honouring the GNH values.

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