Economist: government’s lag on migrant labour hurting economy

FILE PHOTO: The government didn't prepare for the migrant labour shortage created by Thailand's reopening.

The reopening of Thailand has finally kickstarted the economy and put people back to work, but many businesses are struggling with a shortage of migrant labour. While the government has been cracking down on immigrants crossing the border illegally looking for work, many sectors are complaining that the government was unprepared for the country’s reopening and didn’t make efforts to allow foreign migrant workers in.

Businesses estimate a shortfall of 400,000 needed labourers for working in construction, tourism services, restaurants, food stalls, and other local businesses that are often supported by immigrant labour. These sectors are calling on the government to speed up the process for migrant workers to return after the Covid-19 crisis, and say the government should have foreseen the need for labour as part of a successful international reopening and made accommodation for this much sooner.

A labour economist at Chulalongkorn University named Lae Dilokvidhyarat called on the government to take quick action, saying that their mismanagement of labour issues are standing in the way of economic tourism recovery.

“The Thai bureaucracy has failed to facilitate the return of migrant labourers, while demand for labour is high due to the country reopening. While more tourists are visiting the country, restaurants face a labour shortage. This will prevent the tourism industry from making a fast recovery.”

Minister of Labour Suchat Chomklin has plans to sign a memorandum of understanding with each of the neighbouring countries that traditionally supply Thailand with migrant workers, saying that immigrant labourers can enter Thailand legally from next month. But Lae worries it’s too late and high season may be hindered by the delay.

He’s aiming for longer-term solutions and looking to Singapore as a role model for efficient migrant labour management. He says Thailand should coordinate with labour source countries nearby to create a free flow of labour that benefits everyone. Expensive entry fees and complicated bureaucracy need to go to make the process quick and easy to get the economy running and migrant labourers back to work.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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