Moving back to villages was the second most popular choice for coping with the COVID crisis reported by self-employed individuals and the third most popular choice among employees, according to the rapid socio-economic impact assessment of COVID-19 on Bhutan’s Tourism sector 2020.
Working in agriculture was the most popular choice for alternative employment among the surveyed population.
The report states that anecdotal evidence from the qualitative research suggests that most individuals who have lost their livelihoods are planning to work on their family farms or move back to the villages with their parents as a temporary measure while they seek for other employment and livelihood opportunities.
The trend is similar globally where returning to their places of origin is the only viable option for low-income workers who lack savings or social protection mechanisms that can buffer the impact on their lives and livelihoods.
Urban to rural migration may be forthcoming, presenting opportunities for investing in human capital as part of efforts to revitalize the rural economy.
The survey results showed that most alternative employment options presented in the survey were more attractive to, and better suited for men than women.
More men than women were interested in almost all options of alternative occupation.
Report states that gender patterns differed for interest in vocations such as plumbing, electricity, carpentry, and related options. 47% of male but only 16% of female respondents expressed an interest in these categories. However, roughly fewer women than men are interested in the alternative employment options presented, and very few women expressed interest in certain vocations.
The same proportions of women as men were interested in agriculture 26% of women and 29% of men in delivery services and cleaning about 15% of each gender.
Women sought alternative employment in areas similar to their current professions such as working in a beauty salon, receptionist/secretarial work and as domestic help.
The most popular category was agriculture with over 23% of respondents indicating an interest. Others were interested in electricals (19%), carpentry (13%), plumbing (12%), delivery (19%), cleaning (10%), and loading and unloading (8%).
However, vocations such as masonry with an interest indication of 5%, tiling with 3% and bar bending (2%) were the least popular vocations.
Many also expressed interest in occupations similar to their current jobs such as in culinary arts, receptionist/ secretarial work, accounting, beauty salon, IT, marketing and other areas such as painting, weaving and business development.
Interest in alternative employment is strong, especially in agriculture and few vocations such as electricals, delivery, carpentry and plumbing. The assessment did not collect information on the qualification and skills of respondents for the proposed alternative employment; however, most of the respondents 62% had up to high school education.
Among the respondent who were self-employed mostly tailors and street vendors, a vast majority (64%) were not interested in the alternative choices provided, most likely because their businesses are still partially open and/or because they would rather start another business or find opportunities in their existing area of work than seek employment. This is important to consider as the tourism strategy facilitates a focus on opportunities and skilling.
The report’s other significant finding was that those who are vulnerable are keen for support to set out on an alternative career path. 76% of the respondents who are casual and regular employees expressed interest in employment.
While most individuals that are seeking employment are those who have up to a high school degree, interest for alternative employment is high even among the more educated individuals.
Dechen Dolkar from Thimphu