After being trapped in a house of a fraudulent overseas employment agent in Malaysia for more than two months, a 24-year old Bhutanese female job seeker finally managed to escape through traveling to Bangkok.
Like thousands of Bhutan's young job seekers, Zangmo also tried her luck through an oversee employment agent to get a job abroad, but instead she had to pay USD 4,500 to escape the trap in January this year. It took more than two months for her to mentally recover and would take many years to recover from financial loss.
Born and brought up in a small society of Bhutan, Zangmo never thought people could cheat her to this extent, she told Xinhua. She found herself landed in the hands of a couple of Sri-Lankan origin residing in Malaysia disguised as overseas employment agent.
For the first time in her life, Zangmo saw how the couple was also cheating other Bhutanese job seekers, with some even sending prior fees.
"The couple have links all across the globe and could avail official documents within no time," she said. "Sadly, despite sharing my story, there was no one to help me except for my family."
She was one of the many young job seekers, who failed to get jobs abroad despite spending their parent's lifelong savings. Local employment agents promising them with a job and handsome salary cheated most of them, and many ended in court cases.
On May 5, around 50 Bhutanese youths working in Qatar's quality hypermarket reported to the country through local media claiming that they were not paid for more than three months despite working for 10 hours a day. The Global recruitment overseas employment agent, a local firm, sent the youths to work in Qatar.
Considering its small population and fear of being exploited, Bhutan had seldom tried to send unemployed youths to work abroad before.
However, the issue started following the People Democratic Party government's ambitious pledge to send some 30,000 unemployed to work aboard after wining the election.
The ruling party promised 100 percent employment after coming into power in 2013. According to the latest records with the ministry of labor and human resources, the youth unemployment rate is 9.2 percent.
When faced with increasing job seekers in a small country with limited opportunities, the government saw overseas employment as an option to fulfill their pledge.
The government's plan is to send more than 6,000 job seekers to work abroad mostly in Middle East countries every year, and within five year it is to resch to 30,000.
Initial plan was to send through government, which has been introduced by the former government, and managed to secure good number of teaching slots in Thailand, and it indeed came out as a success story.
However, later the government decided to give the opportunity to private entities, local and overseas employment agents. Most of the agents were new to the business and didn't have much links, said the labor officials.
The ambitious promise failed. Into its third year, only 1,432 job seekers have found jobs abroad since the overseas employment program started, according to the latest report compiled by the ministry of labor.
Of which most of the youths were placed in India, followed by Thailand, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates, Doha, Qatar, Israel and Kuwait.
To protect the youths from being exploited by the employment agents, the ministry of Labor even created the regulations on Bhutanese overseas employment agents 2013. One of the regulations is to send job seekers to those countries where worker's rights are well protected.
The regulation also requires proper physical and mental medical examination of job seekers before sending to work abroad. However, the rules failed to protect the youths.
On March 14, a 26-year old man working in Dubai was found dead. The inspection found that he has committed suicide following mental illness.
Despite the issues and problems, the labour minister continues to support the program and claimed that the employment agents are improving.