THAILAND should have long-term and consistent policy to regulate migrant workers to ensure a sustainable benefit to the country’s economy and labour markets, according to economic and business experts.
Yongyuth Chalamwong, Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI) Director of Labour Develop-ment, said at a seminar at Thamma-sat University’s Faculty of Economics yesterday that Thailand is neither serious nor honest in its approach to regulating migrant workers.
Thailand has “a policy problem and our policy towards migrant workers is not consistent,” he said at the seminar entitled “Migrant Workers: Help of Hinder?”
Yongyuth said that the migration of workers into Thailand has benefited the country through increasing the number of labourers in the market. Thailand is having to confront a major transformation as its population ages. The nation faces a shortage of labourers with a decrease in the number of people of work-force age. As well, many Thai people are not interested in taking on dirty, dangerous, and difficult work.
“We have seen an increasing number of migrant workers, legal and illegal, replacing the Thais,” he said.
Asst Professor Supachai Srisuchart, an economics lecturer at Thammasat’s Faculty of Economics, said different types of migrant workers enter the country seeking dif-ferent kinds of work and carrying different work permits, and also illegally.
“It may be not work for the government to launch one-size-fit-all policy to regulate those migrant workers entering the country as they will create different results and impacts,” said Supachai.
Importing non-skilled workers may not be in line with the Thailand 4.0 initiative, which focuses on the use of innovation and technology to grow the economy, he added.
Suchart Jantara-nakratch, deputy chairman for labour issues at the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI), said that from the private sector’s point of view, employing migrant workers is not about lower labour costs but rather a “necessity” issue caused by worker shortages.
“In my personal point of view, nobody in the private sector wants to recruit migrant workers to their |company, as there is a high cost burden in bringing them, both in terms of the migration documents and the process.” Each worker costs over Bt20,000 to recruit, and is entitled to similar benefits as Thai workers, including VAT, social security and overtime payment, said Suchart.
Migrant workers are employed doing the work that Thai workers don’t want to do, and are thus necessary for private companies to operate, he said. And he noted that productivity of Thai workers is quite low compared to other countries in the region, such as China.
“Thailand should open up and allow those migrant workers to migrate into the country based on the level of necessity and actual demand raised by the expansion of the industrial and service sectors, as well as the development of the overall economy,” he said.
He added that any laws and regulations should help facilitate Thai employers in bringing migrant workers into the country and not drive brokers and agents into illegal recruitment.
Suchart said the FTI wants government to open up 10 now-prohibited job categories to migrants.