PHUKET: Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s plan to find work for students over the hot-season school break has received a cool reception in Phuket. As of April 1, only 21 of the 207 students who applied for jobs had found work. The plan, which got a major publicity boost when PM Thaksin put his daughter Paethongtan to work passing out burgers at a McDonald’s outlet in Phatum Thani province, is intended to help students get work experience and extra income while keeping them occupied – and out of trouble. Unfortunately, the plan has been far from successful in Phuket. Not one of the island’s 549 registered hotels and guesthouses hired students under the plan. Indeed, most are more interested in finding ways to shed staff as the high season draws to a close. Perhaps more disturbing is that, of the 21 students hired, almost all were taken on by private-sector firms – mostly restaurants. Only one government agency, the Phuket Social Security Office, opted to hire students under the plan. Under the terms of the scheme, private firms must pay the student employees 23 baht an hour while government agencies must pay 25 baht an hour. The Chief of the Phuket Office of Labor Protection and Welfare, Rungsan Imsomphot, told the Gazette that the plan’s requirement that, in addition to pay, the students receive the same benefits as ordinary workers was a major stumbling block. He said the government needed to resolve this problem quickly if the plan is to succeed before schools reopen. The Director of the Phuket Department of Employment, Penchan Boonhok, said many employers still believe it is illegal to hire minors. Most companies prefer to hire recent graduates over 18 years of age and were unwilling to train youngsters for a brief period, she said.
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