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EDITORIAL-Civil Service Attrition Surge Calls for Strategic Intervention

The attrition rates, as revealed in the November 2023 report, have surged to unprecedented levels, demanding immediate attention and strategic intervention to safeguard the stability and effectiveness of the government workforce.

The statistics are stark and, in many ways, indicative of underlying challenges that need careful consideration. From January to November 2023, the attrition rate rose to a staggering 14.3%, a doubling from the 6.45% recorded in the same period of 2022. This consistent increase over the last four years, from 2.91% in 2020 to 14.3% in 2023, poses a significant threat to the continuity and efficiency of public services.

One of the most alarming aspects is the dominance of voluntary resignations, accounting for 80.7% of the total separations. A total of 3,462 civil servants have chosen to leave their positions willingly, a trend that calls for an in-depth investigation into the factors influencing such decisions. Understanding the root causes, whether related to job satisfaction, career development, or external opportunities, is crucial in formulating targeted interventions to address the core issues.

Contract completion, while a significant cause of separation, highlights the contractual nature of certain roles within the civil service. The expected turnover upon completion of these contracts emphasizes the need for strategic planning and perhaps reevaluation of contract terms to ensure a smoother transition and continuity of essential roles.

Delink cases, involving the removal of an employee from a linked position, have occurred more frequently in regular employment, hinting at potential organizational restructuring or adjustments, which are more common in permanent positions. This raises questions about the adaptability and resilience of the civil service to evolving needs and challenges, warranting a thorough examination of the existing organizational structures.

The varying resignation patterns across position categories shed light on the complexities within the civil service hierarchy. Executive Specialists (ES) witness more resignations than Executive (EX) positions, and higher-positioned roles in the Professional & Management Category (P) experience higher levels of voluntary resignations. The Supervisory and Support Category (SS) exhibits a pattern where higher-positioned roles experience more resignations than their lower-positioned counterparts.

In response to these concerning trends, there is an urgent need for comprehensive policy interventions. Initiatives aimed at enhancing job satisfaction, providing avenues for career development, and addressing external factors influencing voluntary resignations should be prioritized. Sector-specific strategies must be formulated to ensure the stability of critical areas like healthcare, justice, and education.

The government should consider a holistic review of contract terms and organizational structures to align them with the evolving needs of the civil service. This might involve reassessing the nature of contracts, introducing mentorship programs, and promoting a culture of continuous learning and development.

The surge in attrition rates within Bhutanโ€™s civil service demands collective attention and prompt action. The unique ethos of Gross National Happiness should extend to the well-being and stability of the government workforce. Addressing these challenges strategically will not only secure the continuity of public services but also reinforce Bhutanโ€™s commitment to fostering a harmonious and thriving society. It is time for the government, policymakers, and relevant stakeholders to collaborate in safeguarding the invaluable asset that is the civil service, ensuring that it remains resilient, motivated, and capable of serving the people of Bhutan effectively.

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