Key Points

  • Bhutan is predominately a migrant-receiving country, as very few Bhutanese migrate abroad. The Bhutanese labour force is reluctant to do manual jobs due to low wages and a negative stigma attached to this type of work. This has, consequently, resulted in a labour shortage and opened up opportunities for workers from neighbouring countries. The migrant labourers from abroad tend to have significantly lower pay scales.
  • The Government of Bhutan tightly controls in-migration through various regulations, including, among others, a ceiling on the number of foreign workers based on labour market demand at a given time, restrictions on the employment period for specified jobs held by foreign workers and a requirement that foreign migrants hire registered recruitment agencies to obtain jobs. Outbound migration mainly consists of Bhutanese students completing their education overseas.
  • Rural to urban migration is significant in Bhutan despite government efforts to slow this trend by improving services in rural areas. The share of the country’s urban population is expected to double to 60 per cent between 2005 and 2020, putting pressure on urban centres to handle the rapid influx of Bhutanese from different parts of the country.