Experts have advice for govt on how to ‘move Thailand forward’
The Pid Thong Lang Phra Foundation, which is dedicated to promoting the sufficiency economy vision of King Bhumibol Adulyadej The Great, organised a seminar “Rethinking to Push Thailand Forward” in collaboration with seven organisations on Wednesday.
Representatives from the Puey Ungphakorn Institute for Economic Research, the Bank of Thailand, the Bank of Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives, Mahidol University, the National Institute of Development Administration, the Institute of Public Policy and Development and ThaiPublica exchanged research and ideas on improving Thailand after the Covid-19 fallout, a situation that has amplified the country’s social and economic problems from the impact of megatrends, or the driving forces that define the world today and that of tomorrow in major aspects such as an ageing society, climate change and digitalisation.
A foundation study revealed that the Covid-19 crisis has put more than 18 million Thai labourers in 258 occupations at risk of losing their jobs.
“We divided labourers at risk into three groups,” said a foundation representative. “The first group includes those in 166 occupations who are directly affected by change in trading/marketing brought about by the outbreak, like cooks, mechanics, teachers and animal farmers. They account for 32.2 per cent of Thai labourers, or 12.2 million people.”
The second group, consisting of 81 occupations, are technicians, clerks, and craftsmen. They make up 12.6 per cent of labourers, or 4.78 million people.
“The third group, consisting of 11 occupations, are at risk of being replaced by robots or automated systems, like receptionists and warehouse staff,” said the representative. “They are at higher risk of unemployment compared to the first two groups due to lower education and can therefore hardly adapt to future career trends. This group consists of 1.27 million people, or 3.35 per cent of total domestic labourers.”
The foundation proposed that the government and related agencies help these labourers in two ways.
The first is to promote the use and education of modern technology, such as e-commerce, e-learning and working from home via online platforms. This will require the government to invest in digital infrastructure as well as personnel training.
The second way is to promote the development of rural areas so that labourers who leave their jobs in big cities can return to their home province and start a new career there. The development should cover the building of water reserves for agricultural purposes, promotion of local tourism and provision of financial aid to local entrepreneurs, who will in return create jobs in the communities.
Meanwhile, Phubet Samutjak, a professor at the Institute for Population and Social Research, Mahidol University, said the Covid-19 situation has reduced income for labourers from 54 to 90 per cent.
“Our research shows that occupations that have been severely affected by the outbreak are street merchants, public vehicle drivers, and construction contractors, while those who have been mildly affected are civil servants,” he said.
“Some of the labourers who have lost their jobs or been forced to work fewer hours decided to return to their homes upcountry, which is a promising trend as it could lead to distribution of revenue and development in rural areas,” Phubet said.
“These labourers will go home with their knowledge and expertise in modern technology that they have accumulated from years of working in big cities. To make the fullest use of this, the government must design appropriate supporting measures, such as building the necessary infrastructure, promoting a digital economy at the community level and securing markets for locally manufactured products,” he added.