February 11, 2013 00:00 By Watchiranont Thongtep
Right skills required to tap greater opportunities
The Asean Economic Community is greatly reshaping the job landscape in Thailand, demanding that workers change their strategies for finding and securing positions.
Job-recruitment agencies have warned that while the AEC will increase opportunities for some skilled Thai white-collar workers both here and overseas, local and foreign companies in the Kingdom will find it harder to get the right employees in a tight labour market.
Chief among the changes is the fact that the coming regional integration is drawing more Japanese companies – facing a strong yen and hence lower competitiveness at home – to the Kingdom thanks to its good logistical position in the region.
Underlining this trend was a ceremony in January where Nissan laid the foundation stone for a new Bt11-billion plant in Thailand. In the same month, Mazda announced a Bt8.5-billion investment in a new transmission plant here, while printer-maker Roland DG officially launched a plant in Samut Sakhon.
Kasikornbank has reported that this year, more than 1,000 medium-sized Japanese companies are planning to expand into Thailand.
“As Japanese firms increasingly relocate to the Kingdom, people who have good Japanese communication skills and self-discipline as well as good understanding of Japanese working culture are among the most required by such employers. So they are able to get high salaries,” said Noppawan Chulakanista, general manager at JobsDB Recruitment Thailand.
Secretaries of Japanese executives can earn Bt50,000 a month or more, thanks to the increasing demand from Japanese companies already established in Thailand and those that are establishing a presence here. According to the job-recruitment company, the trend
will tighten competition in the job market as the supply of talented secretaries has been low for some time.
In contrast, freshly hired secretaries at Thai companies earn as little as Bt15,000 a month. Even that is a recent improvement, as private firms have had to pay more to match the government’s recent salary-adjustment policy for state employees. For secretaries with English communication skills, pay is typically 20-40 per cent higher.
Noppawan said that besides Japanese companies, other international and local companies such as those in telecommunications, information-technology, pharmaceutical, engineering and human-resource businesses need employees with special skills such as sales and marketing skills.
A recent survey by JobStreet.com, another major job-placement website, found that for the first half of this year, sales and marketing persons were ranked in the top five most required, followed by administration/human resource, accountancy/finance, engineering, and computer/IT.
Meanwhile, in a market where fewer than 1 per cent of workers are unemployed, the AEC, which kicks off in 2015, is expected to introduce a number of new jobs as Thai companies expand into neighbouring countries. The AEC promises mobility of professions in eight fields – doctors, dentists, nurses, engineers, architects, accountants, surveyors and the tourism industry.
Tanaporn Satitpunwaycha, Country Manager at JobStreet Recruitment (Thailand), backed this up with the results of a survey on 2013 job confidence conducted throughout Asean. It found that employees in Thailand and the Philippines expected their situations to improve over 2012. Meanwhile, workers in Malaysia expected no change and workers in Singapore forecast a worse year.
According to Noppawan, overseas investment by Thai companies might not benefit Thai workers. Instead of hiring Thais for overseas posts, some of these companies are looking for skilled foreign workers who are now working in the Kingdom or international students attending Thai universities and set to graduate soon. Some companies in Asean are also luring skilled Thai workers for their overseas operations with higher pay and other incentives, which will in turn create a brain drain.
According to a survey last year by JobStreet.com, 70 per cent of 300 leading Thai companies agreed that with the free movement of labour in Asean, intense competition for Thai white-collar workers would be seen.
To ease that risk, Noppawan suggested that the government or even local private companies should initiate incentive schemes to retain highly skilled workers and develop training programmes for existing employees.
She added the government should also create programmes to attract more international firms
to establish their offices or businesses here to increase the number of foreign professionals in the Kingdom.
“Though the individual income tax rate will be cut this year, I personally believe that it is not enough to attract foreign workers to Thailand,” she said.
Effective this year, the personal income-tax rate for the highest bracket will be cut from 37 per cent to 35 per cent, the first major change in 20 years. But that remains the highest in the region along with Vietnam, which also levies a top rate of 35 per cent, while Indonesia has a fixed rate of 30 per cent.
Tips to get jobs in Japanese companies
1 Experience with Japanese companies is a plus.
2 Japanese language is a plus, while English is a must.
3 Knowledge/mastering/experience with labour law and employee relations is very important to Japanese companies as they are hiring managers and don’t have a clear idea about labour laws in Thailand.
4 Prompt replies to e-mails.
5 Provide full and accurate information.
6 Good attitude, hard-working and self-disciplined.