Bhutan launches its first economic census

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Bhutan children attend an event. Photo: Shutter Stock Bhutan children attend an event. Photo: Shutter Stock

“What is the main activity of your establishment and how many months was the establishment in operation?” asked Deki Choden as she patiently waited to record the response on her electronic tablet.

Carefully tucked around her neck was a badge captioned “Enumerator for the Bhutan Economic Census 2018”.

Deki is part of a cohort of 80 enumerators—or census takers—who conducted Bhutan’s first economic census from December 2018 to February 2019.

Supervised by Dzongkhag (district) statistical officers and National Statistics Bureau (NSB) staff, enumerators, most of them young school dropouts crisscrossed the entire country to its most remote corners. Some locations they visited even required a four-day walk from the nearest accessible road.

With support from the World Bank, this exercise helped provide the data and statistics that Bhutan needs to assess its development progress and shape its policies.   

This is urgent as Bhutan’s statistics capacity ranked at a low score of 60 in 2018, trailing its South Asian neighbors who averaged 76.


Enumerators visited a total of 13,997 establishments using a computer-assisted personal interview system or CAPI.

By collecting basic information such as employment, types of activity, ownership, regional distribution, assets and liabilities, the economic census helped measure economic development  and provide valuable indicators about the structure of the overall economy.

This data will prove useful to formulate evidence-based policies to beef up investments.

In addition, the data will help validate the Statistical Business Register, which is critical for improving economic statistics.

It is our sincere hope that the information published in the report will be useful for policy makers, planners, reseachers, entreprenuers and the development partners. The institution’s immediate focus would be to validate and undertake in depth analysis of data collected and publish thematic reports.
Chhime Tshering
Director, National Statistics Bureau

The NSB plans to conduct the Economic Census every ten years.

The World Bank has been supporting Bhutan’s statistics development mainly through a Trust Fund for Statistical Capacity Building (TFSCB).

The World Bank supported activities include the 2014 National Statistics Development Strategy (2014); NSB’s capacity development to autonomously use CAPI technology and deployment of the Survey Solutions.

Currently, the World Bank is working to update the Poverty Map based on the 2017 National Population and Housing Census and the 2017 Bhutan Living Standard Survey


Tenzin Lhaden

Economist for Bhutan

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