About 70,000 youth are entering the job market in the next 5 years. Thats almost 10% of the current population in addition to those who are already employed. While it may seem a daunting challenge, it is also a huge opportunity for Bhutan to reap this demographic dividend: capitalizing on the vast number of youth who will be apparently more productive to the economy. Therefore, we are looking for the plans that will reap this benefit in the manifestos of the political parties.
As per the latest census (2017), the aging index in Bhutan is 23. This is equivalent to a household with 10 children below 15 years of age who has to look after couple of grand parents who are above 65. For China there are 6 grand parents and for Japan there are 21 grandparents for the same number of 10 children under 15. While aging is now a problem, these nations at one time were made up of young population who were used productively to power their economy ahead. In short, they have reaped their demographic dividend. Let us not waste ours.
The question for our politicians is what are their plans to use our 70,000 youth in a productive manner so that we can reap the benefits. For a start, lets assume that every person in the economy as one player of talent available for the soccer game of economy. How the soccer game is played depends on the entire team where individual player needs his specific position skills. The coach now has to strategize the overall plan on how the game should be played but cannot micromanage the players.
For our labour economy, while cash subsidy (like the Guaranteed Employment Program – GEP) and access to finance (BOIC loan) would definitely help, it could be like packing steroids for all players for more powerful kick while the requirement in the field would be for some to run faster, some to wait patiently and others to tackle the ball. The coach needs to set a clear target after understanding the field layout and the strength of the opponent and give directions to the players who can then use their own judgement and skills.
For our labour economy, we need our politicians to fully understand our economic structure and the labour market and give directions to where our players are heading. We need not be confused between government and private jobs, between manufacturing and retail jobs, between services and production. We need all. Lets not focus on a strategy where we decide purely on defense and miss all the offense opportunities.
I am not advocating for total free market where eventually market gets distorted by players in a cartel like fashion. I am talking about unleashing the power of cooperatives and small scale business but in all sectors. I am not even expecting FDI, we have the banks flushed with money. All we need is a good coach and diverse players with individual talents (entrepreneurs, investors and workers). That is what we would expect in our political manifesto #2 : Reaping the Demographic Dividend.