Bhutan’s Unemployment Rate at Historic Low of 2%


A majority of the persons (300,831) in the labour force are employed. Unemployment rate is the proportion of unemployed persons in the labour force. This corresponds to 5,970 persons who are unemployed.

Bhutan’s Unemployment Rate at Historic Low of 2% (Source:


According to the Bhutan Living Standards Survey (BLSS) report done from March to April 2017, the unemployment rate of the country has hit the lowest at 2 percent compared to 2.7 percent in 2012.

This lower than the 2.1 percent unemployment rate of the 2016 Labour force survey is done with a smaller sample size by the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources.

A majority of the persons (300,831) in the labour force are employed. Unemployment rate is the proportion of unemployed persons in the labour force. This corresponds to 5,970 persons who are unemployed.

In other words, 2 percent or 5,970 person aged 15 years and above who are looking for work and available for work could not get work during the reference period.

Breakdown of unemployment rate according to age groups and gender

The highest employment rate of 11 percent is observed in the age group (15-24 years). In the same age group, female unemployment (11.7 percent) is somewhat higher than male unemployment (10.4 percent).

In other age groups, except in the age group 25-34, unemployment rates are as low as one percent, including for both males and females.

As per Labour force survey (LFS) 2016, by the Labour Ministry, youth (15-24) unemployment rate was 13.2 percent. The difference in unemployment between BLSS 2017 and LFS 2016 could be attributed to the sample size and seasonality.

The BLSS sample size is much bigger and the survey is done by a specialised technical organization which is the National Statistical Bureau.

Overall, in the BLSS, there is a marginal difference in unemployment rates for males (1.8 percent) and females (2.2 percent).

For those who were employed, information about their main occupation status was gathered. Among the occupational statuses, own-account worker (60.7 percent) accounted for the largest proportion of all employed persons, while regular paid employees made up a little over 26 percent.

Seven out of ten (70.7 percent) employed females and five out of ten (53.4 percent) employed males are own-account workers. In contrast, more than three out of ten (32.7 percent) employed males and just about two out of ten (17.8 percent) employed females are regular paid employees.

Unemployment rate in the rural and urban areas

In urban areas, a majority of the employed persons accounted for own-account workers (74.9 percent), while in rural areas, regular paid employees (63.6 percent) made up the largest proportion.

A difference is observed between males and females in these two occupational statuses. A majority of the rural females (82.7 percent) are own-account workers as compared to their male (68.7 percent) counterparts, while a majority of the urban males (70.8 percent) are regular paid employee in comparison to urban females (51.5 percent).

The working-age population which includes all persons’ age 15 years and above is estimated at 506,611 persons, of which, 239,833 are males and 262,778 are females. About one third (32.8 percent) of working- age persons are in urban areas and two thirds (67.2 percent) in the rural areas.

Therefore, more people within the working-age group are found in the rural areas. Labour force participation is estimated at 61 percent for the country, 64 percent in the rural areas and 56 percent in the urban areas, which means a high proportion of the labour force is employed.

The working age population is highest in the age group 25-34 years, and declines thereafter. However, slightly over one fourth (26.2 percent) of this age group are economically inactive, which means that these people are out of the labour force.

Similarly, the highest number of the people employed is in the age group 25-34. It comprises of the economically active as well as the economically inactive population. The economically active or labour force or work force includes the sum of employed and unemployed person.

The labour force represents the current supply of labour for the production of goods and services in the country.

The economically inactive includes those who are not part of the labour force or who fall outside the labour force, which is, economically inactive person are neither employed nor unemployed.

Labour force participants rate is 61 percent throughout the country. The labour force participation rate for females (49.6 percent) is significantly lower than their males (73.6 percent) counterparts.

This indicates the prevalence of gender disparities in the labour force participation in the country.

The unemployment rate is significantly higher in urban areas (4.6 percent) as compared to rural areas (0.8 percent). This shows that unemployment is more of an urban phenomenon.

In urban areas, female unemployment rate is estimated at 6.1 percent as compared to 3.6 percent for males.

Gender disparities in labour force participation

Gender disparities in labour force participation (73.6 percent for males and 49.6 percent for females) are greater than urban-rural disparities.

It is observed that unemployment is more predominant in urban areas than in rural areas in almost all the age groups, irrespective of sexes. Specifically, in the age group 15-24, urban females are more unemployed than urban males.

Unlike in urban areas with higher unemployed females, rural men’s unemployment is somewhat higher than women’s unemployment for the age group 15-24 years.

Across Dzongkhags, labour force participation rates, range from 55 percent to 73 percent. It is highest in Tsirang (72.8 percent) and Gasa (70.8 percent), while the lowest rates are found in Trashigang with labour force participation rate of little more than 55 percent and Thimphu with 56 percent.

Among the Dzongkhags, Thimphu has the highest unemployment rate with about 6 percent, followed by Chhukha at 3 percent and other Dzongkhags have rates of 2 percent and below.

According to the highest educational attainment, slightly more than half (51 percent) of the working-age population did not attend formal schooling or have had no schooling.

While a majority of the employed persons have no schooling, about 60 percent of the unemployed have secondary education and above. This is because a majority of those who are employed and have no schooling, are farmers.

Among the economically inactive, almost half (48.1 percent) have had no schooling. Overall, the unemployment rate increases gradually from lower towards higher levels of education.

The unemployment rate is 2 percent among those with primary education, 3 percent in the case of secondary education, and over 4 percent in the case of education level above secondary level.

A similar trend of gradual increase in the unemployment rate, from lower towards higher level of education, is observed for both males and females, especially in rural areas. In urban areas, there is not much difference in unemployment rates among people with primary level schooling (5.4 percent), secondary schooling (4.7 percent), and above secondary schooling (5.1 percent).

The current labour activity status of the sub-populations of the working-age group according to their highest level of education shows that a majority of the working-age population, irrespective of level of education, are employed.

Among those with no schooling, about 63 percent are employed, while about 37 percent are economically inactive. The proportion of economically inactive is highest among those with secondary education (43.9 percent) and above secondary (40 percent), the lowest proportion is among those with primary level schooling (35.3 percent).

Employment is highest among those with no schooling (62.6 percent) and primary schooling (63.5 percent).


By Kinley Yonten (This article has been edited for the New Bhutan Times)

This article first appeared on The Bhutanese.



Related Posts

Thimphu TechPark aims to attract foreign investment

The main mission of the company is to attract reputed IT/ITES companies from both within Bhutan and around the world to...

Oct 01, 2017 17:37

Entrepreneurship Course Equips Youth with Business Skills

More than 30 out of school youths are learning how to make banana bread, chips, fruit wine and cardamom tea at a basic...

Oct 15, 2017 15:21

Bhutanese Youths head to South Korea for Vocational Training

A total of 18 young Bhutanese headed to South Korea’s Jeju Province in late Sept 2017 where they will undergo trainings...

Oct 06, 2017 17:30

Techstars Startup Weekend Bhutan (Eco-Tourism): 54 Hours where...

The eventful weekend saw 130 keen people in attendance, of which 56 pitched ideas. This was the fifth time that such an...

Nov 29, 2017 08:46

Trongsa to get its First Business Incubation Centre

A business incubation centre will be set up in Tangsibji Gewog in Trongsa. The centre, a first of its kind in the...

Oct 22, 2017 11:30

Starting a Business at the Global Entrepreneurship Week

An industry can be classified as a manufacturing, construction or service industry. The Regional Trade and Industry...

Nov 19, 2017 10:43



Bhutan Ranks 134th Out Of 189 Countries On The Human Development Index

Bhutan has climbed a step up from its 135th rank in 2016, according to the Human Development Indices and Indicators.

Sep 19, 2018 16:25

National Assembly Election 2018: Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa And Druk Phuensum Thosgpa Through To General Round

Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa secured 92,722 votes and Druk Phuensum Thosgpa secured 90,020 votes.

Sep 15, 2018 21:50


Thruebab Or Blessed Rainy Day Held In Bhutan To Cleanse Bad Karma And Receive Blessings

Also known as the ‘Blessed Rainy Day’ in Bhutan, it is a holiday which marks the end of the monsoon season.

Sep 23, 2018 17:31

Drukgyel Dzong Which Used To House Sacred Bhutanese Documents Lost to A Fire In 1951, To Be Restored By 2022

The reconstruction works began in April 2016 after the command of His Majesty The King to celebrate the birth of His Royal Highness (HRH)...

Sep 17, 2018 15:42


No Medals Won But Bhutan Was Recognised For Its Concept Of Happiness By Various News Outlets At The 18th Asian Games

Stephen Wade said that in the Olympics results, there is a direct correlation between how much money a country spends and how many medals...

Sep 20, 2018 17:10

Bhutanese Female Athlete Aces In Athletics And Boxing While Juggling Studies

Tandin was selected to compete at the 18th Asian Games in Indonesia last month.

Sep 09, 2018 17:24


Bhutan Soul Farmers Aims To Be A Model Of Soulful Self-Sufficiency In The Country

Bhutan Soul Farmers’ basic tenet is the sufficiency economy philosophy promulgated by King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand.

Sep 24, 2018 11:24

Cultivation Of Avocado Looks Set To Take Off In Tsirang, Bhutan

A few farmers have already started selling avocados in the Sunday vegetable market for about Nu 250-350 a kilogram.

Sep 18, 2018 15:38


Women In Ramthangka, Bhutan Pick Up New Languages Such As Korean And Chinese To Boost Sale Of Souvenirs

With tourists visiting the site at all hours of the day and almost every day, the women in Ramthangka are most often busy talking and...

Sep 22, 2018 15:03

Handicrafts Shops Thrives In Paro Selling Bhutanese Textile, Paintings, Bamboo Products And More

With businesses picking up fast as a result of the tourism boom, the handicraft shops in Paro have even formed a committee with a...

Sep 16, 2018 14:56


Bhutan’s Legend - Pemi Tshewang Tashi Is Now Successfully Made Into A Comic And Animation Film

It is a tale of how Pemi Tshewang Tashi, a warrior in his time, gave up his personal life as he dutifully carried out his lord’s order of...

Sep 21, 2018 17:44

Miniature Bhutan Creates Amazing Artworks Out Of Pencil Lead And Rice Grains

Miniature Bhutan carves on the lead of pencil tips to make traditional miniature sculptures such as the Buddha, traditional bridges, swords...

Sep 10, 2018 12:44

Subscribe to our newsletter

Never miss out on new happenings and news stories!