In Indian workers' absence, pandemic has been 'good business' for Bhutanese workers

For Dorji Gyeltshen, the year 2019 has been quite a bit different than millions of others in a way it affected his livelihood differently

Oct 13, 2020
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For Dorji Gyeltshen, the year 2019 has been quite a bit different than millions of others in a way it affected his livelihood differently. The 28-year-old Bhutanese just fetched his third welding assignment this year which still has more than twp months to end, while in any normal year he used to get hardly two.

The above isn’t just a story of a single individual in Bhutan. The Covid-19 pandemic has been an unexpected boon to their aspirations and a belated recognition of their skills. The story is the same for almost every skilled Bhutanese labourer who, now, is getting better value and opportunities in the absence of cheap Indian labourers. 

“Although the pandemic has affected the nation as a whole, It has been a good business for the Bhutanese workers in the community,” Dorji was quoted by kuenselonline as saying. In the last six months, he had already completed the welding and fabrication work in two buildings and is now working on a third building. 

The owners, here in Bhutan, preferred Indian workers in comparison to Bhutanese as they used to cost them less. The border remained closed since March leading to a scarcity of Indian workers. “Demanding high wages could be a reason for deploying Bhutanese workers,” Dorji confirmed. 

“They opt for other white-collar jobs and demand high wages even if they take up manual construction works,” said Ugyen Tshering who is constructing a new house. He said he had to hire Bhutanese workers as expatriate workers couldn’t come after border closure. While expressing confidence over the ability of Bhutanese workers, he said, “The Bhutanese workers are doing good and would also get experience if they take up such work.”

Sanjay Dorji, a resident of Mortang village of Samdrup Jhankar district, said, for him, it was extremely difficult to find work earlier but now earns around Nu600 daily. Locals now get to learn from these works and will develop expertise in these jobs, he added. 

In Dewathang town alone, five buildings are under construction now and 35 skilled labourers are working there. In addition to that, these labourers are also training other workers to compensate for the loss of Indian workers. 

For Dorji, it has been an overwhelming year as he has already earned Nu 2,00,000. Moreover, he has to decline two more contract requests due to a shortage of time. 

For local workers in Bhutan, the Covid-19 pandemic has presented them with a golden opportunity to enhance their skill sets and match their Indian counterparts. Once the mayhem of Covid-19 ends, they can expect a fair competition in the local job market, kuenselonline said. 

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