Definition of Youth

The national youth policy (2011) of Bhutan defines youth as between 13-24 years.


Marriageable Age

  • Opposite Sex
  • Same Sex
  • Without parental consent
  • with parental consent
  • Male
  • 18
  • --
  • XX
  • Female
  • 18
  • --
  • XX

  • No data for marriageable age with parental consent. Homosexual acts illegal. Source: UNSD, ILGA

Candidacy Age

Criminal Responsibility

Minimum Age
Source:  Criminal Code of Bhutan

Majority Age


Voting Age


Situation of Young People

Literacy Rates

Both sexes (15-24) %
  • 89.94% Male (15-24) %
  • 87.29% Female (15-24) %

Net Enrolment Rate

Secondary School
Both sexes %
  • 52.88%Male %
  • 60.81% Female %

Situation of Young People

Prevalence of HIV

Male (15-24) %
Female (15-24) %

Tobacco Use

Consumed any smokeless or smoking tobacco product at least once 30 days prior to the survey.
Both sexes (13-15) %
  • 27.60% Male (13-15) %
  • 11.60% Female (13-15) %
  • Year: 2010
  • Source: WHO

Policy & Legislation

Is there a national youth policy?
The national youth policy of Bhutan was drafted in 2010 and launched in 2011. An action plan will follow.

The vision of the national youth policy (2011) is of young people “nurtured with love and care, the benign image of the useful and the graceful, the living, flowing breath of the ideal of Gross National Happiness”. Bhutan has adopted a Gross National Happiness (GNH) development philosophy, in addition to Gross Domestic Product, and the national youth policy (2011) incorporates these values.

The policy focuses on eight key sectors: Education; Health & well-being; Employment; Environment; Social environment; Culture & identity; Recreation & sports; Participation. However, an article on 1 June 2012 voiced concerns that little progress has been made on the National Youth Action Plan since the launch the youth policy.

Public Institutions

Is there a governmental authority
(ministry, department or office) that is primarily responsible for youth?
The Department of Youth & Sports (DYS) within the Ministry of Education is responsible for youth affairs. According to the national youth policy (2011), the DYS is “the lead agency for facilitating convergence in youth related schemes” including the development, implementation and evaluation of the youth policy. They also have responsibility for developing the National Youth Action Plan. The DYS coordinates action between government ministries and other stakeholders, including supporting a Youth Advisory Committee.

Youth and Representation

Does the country have a national youth organisation / association (council, platform, body)?
No national youth council nor national participation structure exists. The Bhutan Youth Development Fund (BDYF) works with national organisations and international institutions and is “Bhutan’s leading youth organization”. It is focused on providing “equal access to education, meaningful employment and opportunities to develop [youth] potential.” The BYDF also delivers advocacy work, focusing on youth participation and youth policies. However, it remains unclear how representative the organisation is, and what role young people have within it.

Budget & Spending

What is the budget allocated to the governmental authority (ministry, department or office) that is primarily responsible for youth and/or youth programming?
According to the Financial Statement 2011-2012, the Ministry of Education was allocated BTN 1.3 billion (USD 22 million), however it is unclear what proportion was allocated to the Department for Youth & Sports. According to the World Bank, Bhutan spent 11.46% of its government expenditure and 4.65% of its GDP on education provision in 2011.
Total Expenditure on Education as a Percentage of Government Spending and GDP

  • % of GDP
  • % of gov. expenditure

Source: World Bank
Gaps indicate missing data from the original data source. (Accessed August 2013).

Additional Background

The national youth policy (2011) offers a rationale for the needs of a youth-focused policy:
Youth constitute a unique group within our society who represent a positive force with enormous potential to contribute to development. However, as they transit through the major stage of moving from the dependency of childhood to the autonomy and responsibility of adulthood, they are faced with many aspects of vulnerability. In contrast to their parents, young people in Bhutan, today grow up in a different and complex world because of globalization and the rapid spread of mass communication, multimedia, changing global economy, political crisis, global violence and increasing access to drugs and alcohol. In addition, with limited life experience, inadequate resources and decision making skills, they are exposed to the risks of neglect, abuse and exploitation. Recent statistics indicate that they are most at risk from major socio-economic challenges including unemployment, low income, physical and sexual abuse, substance abuse, crime and violence and a wide range of health issues, significantly HIV/AIDS and reproductive health with young women being most disadvantaged. The rising trend in these areas reported every year, necessitates greater and renewed impetus for synergized efforts in the planning, implementation and evaluation of youth programmes.
These youth related issues also impinge upon [Gross National Happiness (GNH)], our philosophy of “development with values” and place pressure on our traditional culture and way of life. Rather than viewing these rapidly changing youth lifestyle and culture as threats or youth deficiencies, the concept of GNH must be harnessed and employed to build a strong culture incorporating both the traditional and modern views. A GNH guided youth Policy will enable the drawing together of our unique heritage and identity within the context of change and will empower young people to prepare themselves for the future and provide direction and inspiration for the society as a whole.
The Guardian provides a useful overview of the country’s emphasis on Gross National Happiness (GNH):
Since 1971, the country has rejected GDP as the only way to measure progress. In its place, it has championed a new approach to development, which measures prosperity through formal principles of gross national happiness (GNH) and the spiritual, physical, social and environmental health of its citizens and natural environment.
For the past three decades, this belief that wellbeing should take preference over material growth has remained a global oddity. Now, in a world beset by collapsing financial systems, gross inequity and wide-scale environmental destruction, this tiny Buddhist state's approach is attracting a lot of interest.
As representatives in Doha struggle to find ways of reaching a consensus on global emissions, Bhutan is also being held up as an example of a developing country that has put environmental conservation and sustainability at the heart of its political agenda. In the last 20 years Bhutan has doubled life expectancy, enrolled almost 100% of its children in primary school and overhauled its infrastructure.
At the same time, placing the natural world at the heart of public policy has led to environmental protection being enshrined in the constitution. The country has pledged to remain carbon neutral and to ensure that at least 60% of its landmass will remain under forest cover in perpetuity. It has banned export logging and has even instigated a monthly pedestrian day that bans all private vehicles from its roads.
GNH Bhutan explain further how the concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH) works:
GNH is a holistic and sustainable approach to development which balances between material and non-material values with the conviction that humans want to search for happiness. The objective of GNH is to achieve a balanced development in all facets of life which is essential to our happiness. The goal of GNH is happiness. One of several means to achieve this goal is sustainable economic growth. GNH is a unique approach to national and global development.
The concept of Gross National Happiness consists of four pillars: Fair socio-economic development (better education and health), conservation and promotion of a vibrant culture, environmental protection and good governance.
The four pillars are further elaborated in nine domains: psychological well-being, living standard, health, culture, education, community vitality, good governance, balanced time use and ecological integration. In accordance with these nine domains, Bhutan has developed 38 sub-indexes, 72 indicators and 151 variables that are used to define and analyze the happiness of the Bhutanese people.