The Australia Exodus

I was invited to speak at a half-day seminar for the officers-trainees of the Royal Institute of Management in Thimphu on the topic of Bhutan becoming a remittance economy. I offered to provide some sociological perspectives to explain why the exodus is happening in the first place – based on studies and experiences from other countries.

My qualification to speak on the topic stems from my PhD dissertation, which was an interdisciplinary reasearch that combined communication, technology, sociology, literary theory and Buddhism, and explored the question of identity, community, and spirituality.

Migration is complex

First of all, is this Australia exodus a migration or an emigration? Is it economic migration or brain drain? These differences need to be clear because each phenomenon requires different theoretical frameworks to make sense of, and diverse solutions to address them – if they are recognised as a problem at all.

Second, migration is multifaceted, and calls for a multidisciplinary approach to fully comprehend it. Sporadic, ad-hoc or piece meal plans won’t help address it. For example, to think that by simply raising the income we would put a stop to this exodus is a fallacy. Studies have shown that migration rate from developing countries increases as the GDP per capita rises, because of the enhanced capacity to migrate. The rate of migration starts declining only at around USD 10,000. Bhutan’s current GDP per capita stands at around 3,200. Out-migration, thus, will only gain steam for a decade or so, unless other measures are implemented.

Third, on the question on why people leave, the neoclassical theory of migration (aka the functionalist paradigm), which characterises migration as “seeking greener pasture”, and which is the dominant narrative in our government, needs to consider other broader perspectives such as the aspirations-capabilities framework.

Aspirations-capabilities framework views migration as complex, non-linear and, in many cases, counter-intuitive – and as shaped by macro-structural changes such as urbanisation, economic policies and system of governance. If Bhutanese are opportunists then why is it that every student from my generation returned to serve the country?

This Aspirations-Capabilities theoretical approach allows us to investigate migration as a constitutive part of the broader social process. In a pilot study that I conducted in 2019 among professionals who moved to Australia (I couldn’t do the actual research because of Covid), preliminary findings showed that money was not the main factor. Sense of self-worth and belonging, followed by perceived lack of negative liberty, preceded money, which in turn was viewed as the counterbalance to the two main factors. Statements such as, “If I have money, I can do anything”, or “I can now repay my parents”, or “I feel so suffocated there”, or “It doesn’t matter whether I am in Bhutan or outside” all index to these findings.

Furthermore, Covid-19 and subsequent lockdowns forced many people to reflect on their life’s meanings and purpose. Is this life worth it? What if I died tomorrow? I have not even bought a mobile phone for my parents. The exodus gained momentum thereafter. The monthly departure rate is four times the pre-covid level.

Migration thus occurs as a result of, and which could later drive, deeper psychosocial changes in the country. To oversimplify it as chasing the dollar tree, or to underestimate it as not-a-major-issue, would be a mistake with long-term consequences.

So, what are the solutions? Well, honestly, we all know what to do. It is just that we don’t do what needs to be done. Ego, arrogance, and indifference seem to stand between us and our duty. And yet, complex and multifaceted as it is, it will only be through multiple agencies, including the populace, working together that a lasting solution will be found.

Here are a few ideas, nonetheless. (I could not mention the third one at the seminar because of time)

Public service that facilitates

Like it or not, bureaucracy occupies the centre stage in Bhutan. While it has done well to pull the country out of poverty and underdevelopment, it has not kept up to the changing times and needs. Every little service that we seek requires multiple visits to a government office, or to multiple government offices. This has not only stunted the growth of other sectors but it has stalled itself with a cobweb of rules.

Worse still, there is a perception among the general public that if you know someone you can get anything done. Otherwise you won’t get the service at all. This is terrible, because perceptions may be just that – perceptions, but they bite deeper into the public psyche than the actual reality. In psychological terms perceptions penetrate into the limbic brain. Facts and logic remains in the frontal neocortex. But the thing is, people make serious decisions in life in the limbic system.

One former senior government official also told me that rules are designed to protect the public officials and not the public, or the public interest. The need to submit heaps of documents with undertakings signed on legal stamps for a regular service to the same office, over and over again, is a perfect example. On the other hand, in my six years in Macau I don’t remember submitting anything other than showing my passport to avail the services, including when doing my visa and the stay permit.

Our old ways of doing things need to change. Otherwise our people, the youth especially, don’t have the patience. They will walk away. Or worse still, do nothing. There is a new term in sociology to refer to this phenomenon. It is called quiet-quitting.

Our Parliament may like to do a thorough review of all the rules and regulations of each government agency. As the legislative arm, it falls on them. Regulatory overreach slows down or blocks everything. There is no use of passing a perfect legislation if the sub-legislations drawn by the bureaucrats do not comply with the original intent of the law. Repeal those rules that do not conform, or are outdated – some are even unconstitutional – and those that hinder the movements of goods, people and services, or curtail ideas and innovations.

Every state institution has to chip in. Only then will it set the right conditions for our country to achieve its full potential. If we have policies and public services that facilitate, ideas and entrepreneurship will flourish, employment will be created, taxes will pour in, wages and salaries will increase, everyone will be better off. As things stand, there are no winners. Everyone is losing.

Keeping the emotional connections

To quote Tom Friedman, the world is flat. Australia and Canada are far but for me physical distance is not an issue. What bothers me is the emotional distance that may develop with our people there. It would be a disaster if that happens. And yet, from my own experience, it just takes one generation to disconnect. My wife is Japanese. My daughters don’t know any of their Japanese cousins. Not even one. It is that easy for people to disappear in your life.

Individuals and families must make extra efforts to maintain the connections. Family gatherings for annual rituals can be shared through social media platforms to create a virtual space for blessings. Caretakers and lamas can be reached on WhatsApp and WeChat. Influential Bhutanese must engage in conversations with young Bhutanese living abroad. These days it is not too difficult, thanks to technology. Everyone is just one click away.

Coming back to legislative or executive overreach, we need to amend some provisions of our existing laws, lest we lose some of our people forever. A simple example: the postal ballot facility is not available to Bhutanese outside the bureaucracy. So says our electoral law. We should recognise that it is also in the interest of the State that subject engage in civic duties. If this provision of the law persists, and is not amended, a large section of the population cannot vote. That would disengage the people who will then lose touch with the affairs of the country. There are other provisions and practices in other line ministries that are becoming a wedge between the people and the State. This is not good for a country with less than a million.

Emotional connections can also be maintained if, for example, physical connections are improved. What about direct air connectivity to Australia, Kuwait and Japan? We can negotiate more Fifth Freedom Agreements with countries like Thailand, Singapore, and India right now. With our own scheduled flights, there will be frequent movements of people, which could even lead to a circular migration, and to investments and capital inflow from our own citizens, and not just the monthly doles.

The opening of our embassy was a great move. More such initiatives should be brainstormed. Otherwise migration will become emigration.

Liberalising some key sectors

Some of the world’s biggest companies are in the health, education, energy and entertainment. In Bhutan they remain fully under government control or as public services with no competition whatsoever. While this arrangement was necessary in the past, it does not serve the present circumstances or the future needs. We have to open up. We can not build an economy by retailing Dhaka garments or Uniqlo jackets. We should let our people dream big.

These four sectors are also where we can compete globally. Any economist will tell you that a country’s economy is either based on manufacturing or services – or both. Being surrounded by three of the world’s biggest manufacturing giants – India, China and Bangladesh, Bhutan can only develop its service and knowledge industry as its core economic base. Even hydropower is questionable now.

We can start small, like dishing out private dental services, and allowing private schools to try new curriculum. Our music and movies should be spared from government certifications and censor boards, and instead go for peer-reviews. There is no good rationale behind strangulating Bhutanese content creators while allowing the public to access billions of YouTube channels and Peppa Pig.

Coming back to health service, the wealthy and the affluent, plus those who value their health but not necessarily rich, are jetting off to Thailand and India. Just one hospital – Phyathai, in Bangkok treats over 3,000 Bhutanese out-patients and over 100 in-patients in a year. Read these numbers again. That’s just one hospital. And there are people I know who go to Bumrungrad, Samitavej, and Bangkok Hospital. And, what about patients going on their own to Delhi, Kolkata, Vellore and Siliguri?

All in all, around a billion ngultrums of private money is flowing out annually and that too in foreign currency. Since people are spending money anyway, why don’t we open up our minds, and the health sector, and make them spend that money in our own country? Similarly other areas of growth should be explored instead of slamming every idea as mitub (not allowed).

If our entrepreneurship is limited to importing cars, Korean cosmetics and consumer goods, then I am afraid that the temporary economic migration will become a permanent one-way brain drain.

In conclusion

These days I dread reading government circulars. Seriously. I often ask myself, where is that can-do mentality we once had? Where is the excitement to do, to serve and to build? TV, telephones, Internet, air transport, we got them. It wasn’t easy. Not for our King to find the money, and not for us the engineers to build them. But we did it. Our parents were even better. They scratched the mountains with bare hands to build the first highways. Now everything is about bans and rules and no-budget. Where and when did we lose our optimism, the grit and our sense of humour?

Our bureaucrats need to relax, smile, and develop more confidence. Knee-jerk reactions, myopic policies, narrow and subjective interpretations of rules will wear out the population. Show some strength and give space for people to breathe, make mistakes, cry, learn, laugh and move ahead.

Covid has drained our foreign reserve, and the state coffers. It has also revealed our strengths and weaknesses. Like many countries ours is also at a crossroad. Which road do we take? The familiar and the comfortable one, or the one that is unknown and uncharted?

The choice is not easy but we have to roll the dice. And give a go.

#bhutan #migration #thimphu #seminar #rim


I also invited the young officer-trainees not to look at us, the oldies, only for inspirations, or to point the fingers, but to roll their sleeves, and get to work immediately. And that from next year, today, they will be sitting in the board rooms, and their opinions will be sought. I shared that in 1999 after lots of back-and-forth in the government, I was cornered and the final decision to bring television into the country rested on my yes-or-no. It was 1999. And I was only 31. Just 5 years into my service.

73 thoughts on “The Australia Exodus

      1. Sonam

        Exactly, you said it. To open one bank account in Bhutan you have to submit and sign hundred of documents tht too with passport photo and legal stamp which is ironically sold illegally. I am here in the west and a bank account can be opened by just showing a passport and nothing else. Now coming to public services in Bhutan, the chances of availing a service on time is directly proportional to the links and friends you have or else you end up repeatedly going there for weeks which would otherwise taksa just 15 minutes. Still we singt gnh song and all those beautiful but false decoration of the actual situation


      2. I was told RIM is in a transition/transformation like all government agencies. Plus this was brought together by a RIM faculty, Dr. Dorji Penjore, for his two classes. Also it was not open for public since we are in election season and there is a strict rule from the ECB


      3. RIM is in a transition phase, I am told. Some courses have been slashed and new courses are in the offing. Plus this seminar was just for two classes run by Prf. Dr. Dorji Penjore


  1. Jigme

    You gave a nice bashing on why people move out but then if you talk more on election, the possibility that you will be sued is not less. Because our laws says that only civil servants and students can avail postal ballots and is passed by our highly qualified members of the parliament. I m not annoyed with the law but I am afraid that the country could shatter due to the electoral system. I see that. I like what you point out. I like what you said to people in the talk.
    Development is impossible because what the country produces do not reach the people. So, being optimistic is the only solution for now.


    1. I am an academic, and not a civil servant or a politician. So, I can only speak what my research says. Also, I have restrained myself a bit, and have not mentioned some not-nice-to-hear findings and analysis.


  2. Lotay Tshering

    Dear Dorji Sir,
    Thank you very much for your views, i read it twice and liked every line and message that you are trying to convey, thanks. We have realized and discussed on all the factors and issues you mentioned; the on going reform has the answers to most of your suggestions. I will be happy to take you through the fundamental changes that we are trying to bring about if you have the time; over a cup of tea, coffee, a week-end hike or a evening walk, anything that is mutually convenient. I really don’t care about formalities, as long as we get the job done, please let me know. I am regular on WhatsApp (17162399). I welcome suggestion from anyone who care about the future of our country.
    Dr. Lotay


  3. Dago

    My dad superannuated ten years ago after serving as a teacher for 34 years. He had some savings he made for his retirement home. He ran around for approval to build a house but first he struggled with land approvals starting from gewog and then dzongkhag and finally with ministry and land commission. There are one thousand rules and equal amount of back and forths you have to run carrying documents. Sometimes the officials are in meeting or on tour and papers remain pending. There is no one who continues the paper work of not for the same official. Other times they said officials from MoWHS, MoHA, land commission and MOAF have to sit together to approve this, and that took months before it happened. Other times, they send you back with more information and then another next time.
    Long story short, it is like begging for a favor . Far from what a public service. I have cases of others who have good connections to Gup who competed house ages ago in the same place. Public service is horrendously and painfully poor. I have been to other countries, things are online and first come first basis and officials have kpi targets for processing time and they are audited based on their processing time. We don’t have that. No consequence of leaving a service pending forever.
    Things are online abroad means you don’t have to be discriminated or favored based on your connections as system will automatically prioritize you based on your date of application.
    Less hassle if online as you don’t have to travel back and forth between other dzongkhags and Thimphu. Imagine living in a hotel frequently for weeks or months.
    This are impediments to economic growth.
    But if you have connections with public office or with influential people, you can just give them a call and thing will be done within days for you .
    Old man (my father ) had exhausted most of his savings living in a rented house. Thankfully him and my mother have us (kids) in position to help them with monthly contribution. I can’t imagine how others who don’t have children are surviving .

    And yet we ask why people are leaving for Australia. Answer is right there.


    1. I am sorry that you have to go through. We all have. And this is one thing that is chasing people away. While I sound aggressive on bureaucracy in this article, you should have seen another speaker in the same panel at RIM whose presentation was something along, How bureaucracy failed this country, and why a bureaucracy-led vision will fail.


    2. As I said, if bureaucracy blocks, young people will leave. They have no patience. And their definition of home is the world entire. They have different sets of values. And I don’t mean they are bad or wrong. Just a different perspective to life.


    3. Jigme

      Dr. Lotay Shering must have read this too. The information in your post is an example and that’s also one concern pointed out by socialite Dorji Wangchuk in this post. But the bureaucratic processes in our country is not something created overnight. It is our traditional and ancient format of running public services that our seniors could not change (the haves always enjoyed such rules because it is to their advantage) and did not like to change. Over the years, public services delivery systems got lengthened because people in power enjoyed that. Outwardly, Bhutanese are honest and mani chanting hoaxes but deep inside they can’t stand their neighbours doing good. With this attitude unchecked and unmonitored, our top old bureaucrats spoiled the country and the consequences is openly visible. You need permission to build house in your own land back in the village and the process is like you are building one in New York where you need approval of so many stakeholders. There are many to point out but since all are going out due to the impact of growing apathy and autocracy , I want to keep my post short. I feel your plight because I was once a civil servant who could not make decisions but just observe and lament at what my seniors and juniors were doing.


      1. Getting a construction permit in New York, from what I know, takes ages too. In general it is like this everywhere. In Italy, where I lived for many years, it is even longer. However, there are two things we should take note. 1. Bhutan is a small country. We don’t have to make things so complicated and we can bank on our smallness. 2. In the US and in Italy there is a specified time by which your application is either approved, or rejected (and reasons are clearly stated as to why and how to reply). In Bhutan there is no guarantee as to when a permit can be obtained. Some building permit take 3 months (minimum I heard so far) and some forever.


  4. Tashi Wangchuk

    It is always my pleasure to read your Well researched article. Keep publishing this kind of insightful and thought provoking article so that it will help to unfold eyes of some deliberately blindfolded bureaucrats.
    Thank you 🙏

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Mikaed Dorji

        It’s a great piece; an eye opening one la Dr. As a civil servant in remote Bhutan, I can easily relate the importance of an open, broad-minded leader. A good example, I really have to think a lot to give a comment of this sort here. (I have to ensure that it doesn’t hurt anyone’s sentiment). If I ever leave for Australia and I get to respond a survey, one of the prime factors would be the leadership.


  5. Singye Ziggy Yonden

    Firstly, Ata Dorji Wangchuk congratulations on a thorough and insightful article.
    In support of your article, I hope it is okay to share my story with your readers.
    My name is Singye, and a teacher by trade but an Australian migrant by choice for some 14 years now living in Perth.
    This is my observation and thoughts on the Bhutanese diaspora in the last 14 years in Australia.
    When I first arrived in Perth, I can vividly recollect about 42 people here mostly on scholarship, people on AusAID, Endeavor, RGoB scholarships worked hard for a year or two and went back home happily with their experiences in Australia. Living beyond the borders of Bhutan was unimaginable and inconceivable, people would actually discourage other Bhutanese people to avail of Australian PR and other long-term visas even though most of them qualified for PR as soon as they finished their studies.
    The Foundation:
    Out of 42 people, I know about 7 of us opted to stay back, as most of us (Among the 7 of us) were not on scholarships or had any obligations back home. It was a journey of the unknown, I have to admit most of us haven’t had the slightest clue what would this lead to, but all of them are doing well. It should only be fair that most of them are full-term First-generation Bhutanese migrants having invested all they have in life here in Australia.
    This is just the story in Perth, I know there are families in Canberra, Melbourne, and Brisbane who would share the same story and more than likely would have had identical struggles.
    The concern is:
    Here we are 14 years later, as of last week I believe there are 19200 Bhutanese living in Perth, this is inclusive of partners, children, and other family members on the short-term visit (Mostly for 6 months-year) it is bit of a shock to see the sheer number of Bhutanese populations here in Perth. But, more alarming to see people in very specialized positions back home (Most importantly very experienced) come back here and do it all over again as a student in pursuit of a long-term emigration, this is the biggest concern, I know that people’s job role in our system is replaceable, but the real cost of replacing is something I cannot even fathom. A country like ours cannot afford that, we cannot afford to lose our doctors, engineers, IT specialist, teachers, nurses, and various other professionals.
    Just to give you some perspective, Bhutan could field a full team of Bhutanese footballers who have represented Bhutan in various international matches. By the way, if you are a sports enthusiast there are about 40 fully functioning Bhutanese football clubs just in Perth. This would be more than the whole population of Gasa Dzongkhag just the footballers.
    Then there are those 35 people whom I know coming back with their families to start life all over again.
    The truth is that these highly skilled people cannot translate their experiences and skills back here in Australia instantly because of challenges in Australian System, in fact, these people end up not practicing their expertise and skills at all, and it is a huge loss to both Bhutan and Australia.
    My question here is knowing we do put our blame on bureaucracy and system back home, but who is the system, and who are the bureaucrat?
    I think it’s all of us, all 19200 of us included.
    It is an open secret that all of us here are economic migrants, we start off our Australian journey in pursuit of securing our future, our family’s future, and fitting into the upper echelon of Bhutanese society.
    But do we understand the cost of this or at what cost?
    How many of these 19200 people would go back home, how many would fit into the upper echelon, and how many would succumb to the pressure of making it in Australia?
    The major obstacle is the working conditions on people’s Visas and the education fees almost all Bhutanese have to fork out. Then there is the uncertainty of the future in Australia how many would go on to qualify and avail PR, and how many would be able to save enough to build a base in Bhutan for retirement working multiple jobs, trying to live 4 hours a day. Working 6 days a week to live for just 1 day.
    It is just a thought.
    Where are our values and where is the quality of life? if we say we moved for a better lifestyle.
    Mongolia had a similar issue to us, after 5 years of intense negotiation and diplomacy, I hear that Mongolians will be granted Working Holiday Visas soon. We could follow suit and in turn, maybe streamline our future with some certainty.
    At least with Working Holiday Visa, we know anybody under the age of 30 has two years to work full-time without having to pay off school fees and breaching Visa obligations.
    Western Australia is in the process of recruiting 30,000 workers to fill in various positions from the UK why can’t our government look into this and put our hands up, I truly believe we Bhutanese are really good and diligent workers.
    The takeaway from this is we are very lucky here in Perth to be living in a home away from home, in comparison to 14 years ago. We do not lack any Bhutanese aspects of life here other than at times reminiscing about those beautiful high mountains and laid-back lifestyle.
    The choice is yours.


    1. Thank you for sharing your story. I will raise it with people I meet on this issue. Facilitating a circular migration may be a win-win for both Australia and Bhutan since we are leaving in droves anyway


      1. Khampa

        I strongly agree with you la. However public. Service over the years has drastically improved yet more needs to be done. It sometimes appear that Our fellow citizens are used to such system – pace we move or live – the only quicker services would be through online, internet services must take to higher level.


    2. jigme

      you forgot bhutan, so you have the right to keep mum! not all are bureaucrats, neither are all responsible for bhutan. leadership crises is the issue discussed here.


    1. I suspect many in the government have read this. This post has garnered 11K visitors. Statistical significance achieved in terms of probability of some in the government seeing this. HA HA HA


  6. Kencho Peldon

    All of the points are important highlights of the migration trend that has picked up in the last decade and now steadily increasing the number of people moving outside. I agree with your well-researched and thought-provoking policy interventions in rethinking migration and its social impacts.
    While you said that you’ve refrained from making ‘nice-to-hear’ remarks on the issue, more than what you could say, share and write openly, it may be that we may find real answers to the problems in the hidden and untold aspects of the issue and NOT in the things that get discussed and shrug off every day.
    One of the deeply entrenched social phenomena which appear to contribute to an individual’s decision to migrate is the rising social inequality that particularly worries the younger generation of the population in the kind of lifestyle they chose to pursue. Given the impact of globalisation on local socio-cultural systems and the undercurrents of neoliberal societies which project possibilities of a utopian worldview, an imbalanced scale of social equality and justice will force the growing younger population to seek a different world elsewhere. This is not true only of Bhutan. End of February 2023, the Australian Government noted the net overall migration into Australia will cross over 650,000 in the years 2022-23 and 2023-24.
    As you said, it may be that the government’s policies and rules which not only need to be updated to make them relevant to the present set of conditions and circumstances in society, but, more importantly, to rethink supportive frameworks which must suit the fast-coming future at our doorstep. Thank you.


    1. Yes, the article invites people to view the migration as a social process, which is a broad term that includes social inequality. Thanks for reinforcing that.

      Oversimplification leads to nowhere. The example is expecting to counter our own rural-urban migration through rural development, which has not worked.



    The world where maximum states are with capitalist development model characterized by the availability of private ownership of assets and means of production, little state control over economic activities, and a free and competitive economy which has pushed so far the socialist model of development has been outlasted for several countries like China, Russian and so forth. The failure was due to slower economic growth, less entrepreneurship opportunity and competitiveness, and a significant lack of motivation among individuals as a result of lower rewards are all likely alternatives. The socialist model, Marxism, and Neo-Marxism serve as the ideological foundations for this model. It argues that development can only take place if the government supervises the economy and controls the means of production and ownership.

    The base that I associate above has to be rethought in the Bhutanese context where the maximum of the plannings and reconstructions of the country’s policies are still in line with the socialist model which is where outwash has been seen, the greatest scenario is of outgoing of working-class people to other countries, it could be cause the model focuses on moral incentives rather a material incentives which becomes a major problem in modernization and a materialistic world. On the other hand, when globalization has its phase Bhutan has been connected to the world and had equal competition internationally which makes one move out of the country to be part of the world economy and be a part of the competition.
    Personal opinion la sir.


    1. Our country has to decide between socialist capitalism (China style) and liberal capitalism (US type), between state-run economy and market-driven economy. I am fine with any of the choices but the mix is not good.


  8. STshering

    I have been longing for such write up and article !
    Well written and absolutely worth reading, but sad that law makers aren’t doing enough.


  9. Kuenzang Tobgay

    I totally agree with your points and I have always remained inspired by your talks and blogs and we share similar kind of career interest, especially later part of our lives although not as successful career as yours. Just wanted to know if you could also mention a brief on remittance trap, as we can see Australia Exodus happening in the country and will Bhutan ever fall in this trap? I wrote a short blog on this in my website, if you may want to go through…


      1. Kuenzang Tobgay

        Noted Dorji Sir, anyways thank you for your response and I would like to see more posts and talks from you. Thank you


  10. Yangka Yangka

    Such a broad-based thoughts and well put up for deeper reflection. We need better policy makers of that same spirit and farsightedness. But we are going the opposite direction each single day and I am sure it will have severe consequences.
    But three are more fools than wide in the system and they will not give an inch for such wise insights into our current issues.
    I salute Dr Dorji Wangchuk for your deep concern and sharing it with others.
    Keep sharing your wisdom la.


    1. The recent decision by the Civil Service to invite any Bhutanese pros to compete for senior positions in the government is a welcome move. I am sure we will have some good people returning and joining the government leadership positions. However, change takes time since we are trying to overall a 40-year plus bureaucracy.

      RCSC was instituted in 1982, and so it is bit a mid-life crisis. We must understand. HA HA HA


  11. Ken cho

    One particular reason for many civil servent leaving for better option is also due to system of contract employment. Many feel insecure. Many who left the country were either contract employee themself or their spouse were under such status. Such system have created social differentiation amongest CS. Many are yet to leave.
    My observation


    1. Migration, as I have mentioned in the article, stems from different psychosocial issue. To lump everyone together as chasing money is wrong. Different people have different reasons to leave a system, or even migrate, which is not a pleasant experience. I have been on many flights with people leaving for Australia. When I observed each and every face on the plane, some were as if they were deported out of Bhutan.


    2. Most of my research participants were former civil servant and corporate employees. I was concerned with that category because we need them here in Bhutan. But I understand that people need job security and contracts do not promise much


  12. Nidup

    Thank you Prof. Dorji. Every sentence made an absolute meaning. Trust the leaders would be illuminated by your concern which is also our concern!


    1. Thank you for the kind words. My experience on the workings of our government is, good things take time but they happen.

      Now the only worry I have is, our people these days have less patience


    2. Not sure. I hope it has. I won’t be disappointed if nothing comes out of it too. I voiced out because first, I am concerned about the possibility of losing some 150,000 (one fourth of the population) by the time we see some flattening of the curve; and second, in life I have always did some things to put my conscience at rest, so that later I don’t regret having not done the right thing.


  13. Ugyen

    Dear Sir ,

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your article. As someone who studied and lived in the US since I was 18 years old to 25 years of age , I came back to settle in Bhutan not because of the amazing economic opportunities but the free health care in Bhutan . Health care was extremely expensive in the US and insurance would not cover most major surgeries .

    There are people like myself who have lived in China , in the United States and in Africa and finally came back home as well . I believe as much as we would like to talk about Bhutanese leaving for other countries , the government should emphasize on those of us who are staying in Bhutan and want to stay in Bhutan at all costs. There are those of us who feel a deep sense of attachment to the country and would rather make 70,000 nu in Bhutan monthly than make 6000$ abroad.

    Due to the increasing number of Bhutanese leaving Bhutan , them leaving is affecting the livelihood and economic opportunities for those of us staying back in Bhutan. Opportunities are slimming down every day in Bhutan and I fear if things get too bad economically , even those of us who want to stay back in Bhutan and contribute to Bhutan might be forced to leave as well for abroad .

    For six years in the United States , I longed for the beautiful mountains of Bhutan and the abundance of the Dharma and spiritual teachers in Bhutan . Now that I am back in Bhutan , I fear that if things don’t get better in Bhutan , I and many others might have to pack our bags and roam others land like I once did .


  14. Achyut Bhandari

    Hi Dorji,

    What a pleasant reading! Your article makes a lot of sense. I had similar views in my article of March 21, 2023 in Kuensel. My argument was that it is not just money or lack of jobs at home that is driving Bhutanese abroad. One big issue is the ecosystem of doing things in Bhutan, be it in government or private sector. In short, although I am a former civil servant, I don’t hesitate to say that bureaucracy sucks! And that is across the board.

    Despite some recent improvements through ICT, paper records are still required or even mandatory. You don’t get a response from bureaucrats unless you follow-up on your request or submission; either the person concerned is in a meeting, too busy or on tour, that is if your phone is answered which often is NOT the case. Or the SYSTEM is down! I have so many instances that I can cite here but let me not bore you with them. Even when relevant issues are brought to their notice, they are either brushed aside, have to be referred to their bosses or exhibit a ‘could not care less’ attitude! In short, there is little drive to solve a problem or think out of the box! And no accountability.

    About your views on how so much money is flowing out of the country on medical treatments, another example is Bhutanese rushing to Jaigaon or Dadghari for cheaper goods. Frankly, I don’t blame them as the prices are so high in Bhutan. My wife told me the other day that when she inquired about the prices of a Kg. of cucumber in a vegetable shop in Taba, she was told Nu.200 from one lot and Nu.30 from another, the former being Bhutanese cucumbers! I think this says it all. Why can’t our Government find ways and means of consolidated purchases from within Bhutan (or India), and distribute essential products through private sector in our markets? I am sure through some incentives and sustained monitoring of prices, this can be done to help our consumers to pay less.

    Let us be in touch and if you are in Thimphu ,why don’t we meet over coffee when you have time?

    Best wishes…


    1. Dasho Achyut Bhandari,

      Deeply humbled by your kind words.

      Yes, the ease-of-business and the bureacracy have stalled the private sector, which has limited the growth and opportunities.

      I hope the on-going reform would address the shortcoming. Ours is a small country and should not be a difficult fix, if we truly believe, and if we can restore our collective trust and confidence.


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