Labour Force Participation and Working Life Table of Bhutan

by Tashi Dorji, Master of Arts in Demography (2011)

The paper attempts to analyze three interrelated topics: (1) labour force participation, (2) youth unemployment, and (3) working life tables in Bhutan using the 2005 population and housing census of Bhutan. In the first topic, the objective is to examine patterns, differentials and determinants of labour force participation rate. Latter examining the effect of selected demographic and socio-economic variables on the labour force. The study of the youth unemployment as the second topic focuses on identifying the demographic and socioeconomic differentials of unemployed youth. The third topic requires the estimation of average economically active and inactive life from age 15 to 65and over. I also quantified the withdrawal from labour force as result of death and causes other than death.

Labour forces participation rate is generally higher amongst males, adults and currently married compared to their female, young, and single counterparts. Moreover, those residing in the rural areas who are university graduates and those living in the central region have higher labour force participation rate as well as proportion in the labour force than their counterparts, i.e., urban residents, with education lower than university level and those in western and eastern regions.

Sex, age, marital status, education, place of residence and region emerged as significant predictors of being in the labour force holding constant all the confounding effects of the other variables. Demographic variables have greater net influence of being in the labour force compared to the socio-economic variables.

The study found that unemployment problem is mainly concentrated among youth and essentially a youth issue. The higher the risk of unemployment is observed among female youth compared to male youth, single than currently married youth. The youth residing in urban areas, with university education, who are located in the western region of the country are more prone to unemployment compared to their rural, lower educated and central and eastern residents’ counterparts.

Using working life table approach to estimate the expected working and inactive life of the Bhutanese, the paper found that a Bhutanese male who survives to age 15 is expected to live 48.6 years on the average, out of which 45.2 years are expected to be spent in active status (working) and remaining 3.5 years in inactive status. Corresponding values for female are 49.7 years, 46.7 years, and 3.1 years, respectively. In general, females have higher economically active life than males. There is no difference in economically active life compared to urban females. Conversely, this means that urban females display a greater proportion of economically active life. Constructed working life tables by region and sex reveal slight difference in terms of economically active and inactive lives. The central region depicts slightly higher economically active life for both sexes compared to the eastern and western regions.

In terms of quantifying the attrition in the labour force due to death and other causes, findings show a total of 2,492 males which left labour force in 2005. Of these 1,815 (72.9%) left on the account of death and 676 (27.1%) due to causes other than death such as retirement, migration etc. The corresponding figures for females are 1,308, 958 (73.2%) and 350 (26.8%) respectively. The exit from the labour force by place of residence reveals that 63.6 percent urban males and 75.2 percent rural males left on the account of deaths. For females, most of the withdrawal from the labour force occurred as result of causes other than death regardless of place of residence. Particularly, 61.2 percent urban female and 71.8 percent rural females left labour force on the account of causes other than death. In contrast, majority of males in western region (65.8%) left on the account of causes other than death. For females, majority of females in western (69.6%) and eastern (74.8%) regions exit labour force on the account of deaths while majority of females in central (73.3%) region left on the causes other than death. Generally it is observed that the main causes of withdrawal from the labour force for both sexes were due to death.

The significant toll that mortality inflicts on the labour force suggests the importance of examining the causes of death. The study indicates that the non-communicable (49.2%) diseases were the leading cause of deaths for working population followed by other diseases (31.2%) and accidents related deaths (15.3%). This leading cause of death for working population persists in the urban and rural areas and the three main regions of the country.

The above findings provide insights into the type of policies and programs and the kind of future research focused on labour force dynamics in Bhutan.