Lack of digital literacy in Thai workforce likely to effect economy

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The National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC) raised concerns over the state of literacy and digital skills among the youth and workforce, citing potential detrimental effects on the economy in the coming years.

According to NESDC Secretary-General Danucha Pichayanan, recent surveys indicate alarming figures with 64.7% of individuals possessing literacy skills below international standards, while 74.1% exhibit substandard digital skills.

These findings underscore a significant deficiency in basic reading and computer proficiency among a substantial portion of the population, namely among youths and the working age.

Despite Thailand’s high daily Internet usage, the country ranks 39th out of 63 nations in digital skills. This deficiency could lead to an annual economic loss of up to 3.3 trillion baht due to diminished labour productivity, limited innovation, and decreased foreign investment.

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The ongoing problem of Thailand’s declining birth rate is likely to compound the lack of digital literacy due to the shrinking workforce, said Danucha.

“This underscores the urgent need for Thailand to seriously enhance the skills of its population to compensate for the shrinking workforce and support the transition to a high-value economy and industry.”

Employment decrease

Recent statistics further illuminate the economic landscape. In the first quarter of 2024, the employed population of 39.6 million decreased slightly by 0.1% in contrast to last year, likely due to a more than 5.7% decline in agricultural employment during the off-season.

Conversely, non-agricultural employment grew by 2.2%, within the hospitality and construction sector which was fuelled by the influx of 9.3 million international tourists.

Despite a 0.5% increase in private sector wages, reaching an average of 13,789 baht per month, the overall average wage slightly decreased by 0.4% to 15,052 baht per month.

Unemployment figures remained steady, with a rate of 1.01% in the first quarter of 2024, equating to 410,000 unemployed persons, which is a decrease of 3.2% from the previous year.

However, challenges persist for young graduates aged 20 to 24, who constitute the largest proportion of the unemployed.

Danucha also addressed concerns regarding the sustainability of the Social Security Fund. He highlighted the fund’s impending challenge of providing pensions to an increasing number of retirees amidst a declining workforce.

By 2032, retirees claiming old-age benefits could triple, reaching 2.3 million, posing liquidity and sustainability risks to the fund.

Drawing on an NESDC study, Danucha emphasised the escalating expenditure-to-revenue ratio of Thailand’s social protection budget, from 34.6% in 2013 to 73.4% in 2021. This trend threatens the fund’s ability to provide future benefits for insured individuals.

The NESDC’s warning signals the need for concerted efforts to address the nation’s literacy and digital skills gaps, which remain crucial for sustaining economic growth and social stability in the long run, reported The Nation.

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Ryan Turner

Ryan is a journalism student from Mahidol University with a passion for history, writing and delivering news content with a rich storytelling narrative.

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