Bhutan is considered the happiest country on Earth. Bhutan was given this moniker because it’s famous for its Gross National Happiness index – an index it uses to track the collective wellbeing of its predominantly Buddhist population. The Gross National Happiness index is an economic gauge that takes into account recreation, emotional well-being and the environment, factors ignored by the conventional gross domestic product measure.
They say if you’re going to leave the happiest country on Earth then you want to be going somewhere pretty incredible. And it seems Perth is that place, with most recent arrivals settling in Perth! With its popularity, Perth has established a reputation as the international study destination of choice among the Bhutanese.
Since the reopening of Australia’s borders, student migration from Bhutan to Australia has skyrocketed making Australia home to one of the largest communities of Bhutanese expatriates outside of South Asia. Over 12,000 Bhutanese international students migrated to Australia in the 11 months to May, representing about 1.5% of the population of this tiny South Asian country.
While a little over a decade ago, just 50 Bhutanese left their homeland to study in Western Australia, today Perth attracts around two thirds of all the Bhutanese students who choose to study in Australia. According to the education census of Perth, there are around 7,000 Bhutanese students in the WA capital.
If Bhutan is the Happiest Country on Earth, Then Why Are People Leaving?
As much as happiness and the wellbeing of the population is important, there are many reasons why the young people of Bhutan are moving to Australia.
Of the many reasons why the Bhutanese favour Australia, the value of the dollar plays a big part. Working in Australia for a year enables a Bhutanese to earn what would take a lifetime to earn as a civil servant in Bhutan.
While the earning opportunities are a big drawcard other factors have a large influence on Bhutanese wanting to leave Bhutan.
Bhutan has a mostly closed economy which is largely dependent on hydropower and tourism. Recently, they have been hurt by high energy prices which has led to a fall on its foreign reserves. In addition, the government’s reforms of the public sector designed to streamline and modernise the country’s biggest employer – the civil service, has contributed to a mass exodus of working professionals.
Adding to Bhutan’s woes is the slow recovery of their tourist industry, a result of higher tourist taxes being implemented since Bhutan re-opened its borders last September. With youth unemployment hitting 28%, many of Bhutan’s younger generation are leaving Bhutan for Australian shores to seek better opportunities.
Bhutanese migrant, Tashi Kipchu originally trained as a chemical engineer in Bhutan but came to Australia in 2022 to study marketing at the University of Western Australia. Soon after arriving here, he saw a business opportunity and started an education consultancy to help potential students from Bhutan. His company now employs approximately 50 people in Bhutan. He feels that the trend for Bhutanese to make Australia home will continue.
‘I came to Australia to study but somehow this country gave me an opportunity. The job opportunities and the flexibility for students to work here makes it more attractive.’ –  Tashi Kipchu, Founder, EDU International.
While the community of Bhutanese international students represents only a small proportion of Australia’s 600,000 international student population, it presents an opportunity for Australian universities and other educational institutions to diversify and be less reliant on countries that were once key markets for Australia when it came to international students.
To learn more about any aspect of migration, contact the team of experienced registered migration agents at Visa Solutions Australia. Book a consultation.