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The old slog while the young loiter

The LFS of Bhutan states that the age groups 65+ has the highest proportion of employed persons while the lowest proportion of employed persons is observed in the 20-24 age bracket

 By Tandin Wangchuk

The Labour Force Survey Report Bhutan 2020 reveals some startling realities into Bhutan’s vital statistics, including the information that females in Bhutan earn less than their male counterparts.

The country’s overall mean monthly income is Nu. 17,911 and median monthly income is Nu.14,000. This is according to the National Statistical Bureau’s (NSB) Labour Force Survey Report which has some insights into Bhutan’s demographic structure.

It also reveals that the females’ mean (Nu.15,124) and median (Nu.10,000) values are comparatively lower than those of males (Mean Nu.19,820 & Median Nu.15,000).

Among other interesting finds, the report states that the working-age population for the country is estimated at 488,336 persons of which 233,844 males and 254,492 females.

Further details states, of the total working-age population, 331,222 persons are economically active out of which 51.2% are males and 48.8% are females. Of the total economically active population, 68.4% resides in rural areas, while a little less than one-third (31.6%) live in urban areas.

In addition, the Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR) for Bhutan is estimated at 67.8%.

The LFPR for rural area (69.7%) is higher than urban area (64.0%). The male LFPR is higher in urban area (73.3%) as compared to their rural (72.1%) counterparts while the female LFPR is higher in rural area (67.5%) than in urban (55.7%) area.

It is revealed that about 32% (157,114 persons) of the working-age population are economically inactive; more than half (59.1%) are females, while 40.9% are males.

“A little less than two-third (62.6%) of the economically inactive population are found in rural areas and 37.4% are in urban areas,” it states.

In terms of employment, the country’s employment rate today stands at 95.0%. The employment rate for males is 95.9% and 94.0% for females.

Study reveals that of the total employed (314,562 persons), 220,406 are in rural areas and 94,156 are in urban areas. Lhuentse Dzongkhag has the highest employment rate with 99.4%, while Thimphu has the lowest (87.7%).

In addition, by major occupational groups, skilled agricultural, forestry and fishery workers (49.7%) employed the highest number of persons, while clerical support workers (2.2%) employed the lowest.

Further, employed persons working as “regular paid employee” (28.6%) accounted the largest proportion of the employed persons, followed by persons working in agriculture as “family worker” (27.0%) and persons working in agriculture as “own account workers” (22.4%).

The study revealed that out of the total employed persons, 42.4% are without any qualification, while about 16.0% has lower and middle secondary and 12.1% has primary level of education. About 8.0% of the employed persons has education level of bachelor’s degree and above.

Among the total employed persons, the highest percentage is engaged in the agriculture sector (49.9%), while the lowest is in the industry sector (13.5%). The share of employment in service sector is 36.6%.

Comparing by age group, 14.7% are in the age range 30-34 years, and it is closely followed by 14.4% in the age range of 35-39 years and 12.8% in 25-29 years.

The study revealed that a total of 331,222 persons are classified as economically active or in the labour force. Out of these, 16,660 persons were without work, seeking and available for work during the reference period, 2020.

“This translates to an unemployment rate of 5.0%, which is the highest till date. The unemployment rate for females (6.0%) is higher than that of males (4.1%),” the report states.

In addition, it was found that unemployment is more of an urban phenomenon with 10.1%, which is four-times higher than that of rural areas (2.7%).

Among dzongkhags, Thimphu has the highest unemployment rate with 12.3%, followed by Paro (9.4%), Chhukha (5.8%) and Punakha (5.2%), while Lhuentse and Monggar Dzongkhags has reported lowest unemployment rate with 0.6% and 1.2%.

The overall youth unemployment rate is estimated at 22.6% (6,922 persons). Out of the total unemployed youth, about 38.7% are males and 61.3% are females.

The working-age population is estimated at 488,336 persons in 2020. Of the total working-age population, 331,222 persons are economically active, out of which 51.2% are males and 48.8% are females.

Also, the share of economically active population in rural (68.4%) areas is more than that of the urban (31.6%) areas. In the rural areas, the share of male and female active population is almost equal, while there is a huge difference in the urban areas.

Among dzongkhags, about 17.0% of the total labour force is found in Thimphu.

Economically inactive population

Economically inactive population includes full-time students, monks/nuns, full-time homemakers (i.e. housewives, househusbands), the chronically ill, those too young and too old to work, trainees, the retired, disabled, and those who did not do any work during the reference period to generate income, or help in a family business.

As on 2020, there were 157,114 persons in the country within the working-age population who are economically inactive accounting for 32.2% of the working-age population.

Of the total, 58,821 persons are in urban and 98,293 persons are in the rural areas. In totality, economically inactive population is higher for females with 59.1%, while it is 40.9% for males. The female economically inactive population is higher in both urban and rural areas.

Comparing by Dzongkhags, the highest economically inactivity rate is observed in Thimphu with 38.7% and the lowest is in Monggar with 23.6%.

Looking at the economically inactivity rate by sex, Thimphu (46.3%) has the highest female inactivity rate followed by Chhukha and Punakha with 43.1% and 40.8% respectively. The male economically inactivity rate is highest in Trashi Yangtse (36.7%).

Economically inactive population is more concentrated among those persons without any education. A little more than one-third of the economically inactive population (35.9%) are without any kind of formal education, while 19.1% of the total have ‘middle secondary’, 18.7% have ‘higher secondary’ and 10.4% have ‘bachelor’s degree.

Comparing by sex, females with no education are found to be more economically inactive in both areas.

The employment scenario

Of the total labour force, 314,562 persons are employed, 51.7% are males and 48.3% are females. There are more persons employed in rural areas (70.1%) than in urban areas (29.9%).

The overall employment rate for Bhutan in 2020 is estimated at 95.0%. The rate is 2.3 percentage point down from the previous year. The employment rate is higher among males (95.9%) than females (94.0%).

Among dzongkhags, Lhuentse (99.4%) has the highest proportion of employed persons followed by Monggar (98.8%). The lowest proportion of employed persons is observed in Thimphu and Paro Dzongkhag with 87.7% and 90.6% respectively.

Among the age groups, 65+ (100.0%) has the highest proportion of employed persons followed by ages 55-59 (99.6%) and ages 60-64 (99.4%). The lowest proportion of employed persons is observed in 20-24 (77.1%).

The total employed persons by sector, Among the age groups, 65+ (100.0%) has the highest proportion of employed persons followed by ages 55-59 (99.6%) and ages 60-64 (99.4%).

The lowest proportion of employed persons is observed in 20-24 (77.1%). The highest is employed in the agriculture sector (49.9%), and the lowest is in the industry sector (13.5%). The share of employment in the service sector stands at 36.6%.

The proportion of females (58.8%) working in the agriculture sector is higher than that of males (41.7%). However, in service and industry sectors, the proportion of employed males is higher than that of females.

Finally, by occupational groups, the largest proportion of employment is concentrated in ‘skilled agricultural, forestry and fishery workers’ (49.7%), for both males and females.

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