Thousands of jobs at risk as Thai firms stay closed
By Petchanet Pratruangkrai ,The Nation Publication/Asia News NetworkAbout 164,500 employees of flood-affected enterprizes are at risk of losing their jobs this year as 284 firms have not yet reopened after last year's inundation, while the upcoming increase in the daily minimom wage could aggravate the situation, according to a report by the Office of the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) in Thailand.
February 29, 2012, 12:06 am TWN
Industries where there is a high possibility of downsizing are automobile manufacturing, office machinery, electronics, electronic appliances, textiles and garments, machinery, television and radio appliances, rubber, chemical products, plastics, household equipment and petrochemical goods.
Arkhom Termpittayapaisith, head of the state think tank, yesterday said the authorities must closely monitor the employment situation during the remainder of the current quarter, as many enterprises could adjust their operations in preparation for the 39.5-percent rise in the minimum wage in April.
The Labor Ministry's project to relieve the impact on workers affected by the flooding crisis ends this month, which could lead to more unemployment in following months, he said.
However, Arkhom still believes overall unemployment will not rise this year thanks to expected positive economic growth, besides which many sectors still face labor shortages.
“We estimate that the unemployment rate by the end of this year will not increase from last year, although there will be many challenging factors to monitor and some disguised unemployment may be seen,” the NESDB chief said.
Arkhom said the increase in the minimum wage to 300 baht (US$9) per day, starting in seven provinces, would encourage businesses of all sizes to increase their efficiency and adopt new technology.
Some enterprises may choose to terminate the employment of some workers as a last resort, but most would strive to boost their capability and operations to maintain their workforce, he added.
To help assure employment levels are maintained, Arkhom said the government should have training projects to support the development of skilled labor, and arrange matching between employers and their potential employees.
The NESDB reported that unemployment last year had grown by 1.1 percent, while the number of unemployed was about 200,000, or 0.7 percent of the potential workforce.
Real labor income in the fourth quarter improved by 3.2 percent, and average annual incomes were up by 2.8 percent, representing slow growth from 2010.
Suwannee Khamman, deputy secretary-general of the NESDB, said the labor market in general was still tight.
When classified by the number of working hours by sector, there are a large number of economically inactive workers, especially among unskilled laborers in agricultural industries, she said, adding that this suggests educational development is needed to produce workers in fields demanded by the labor market.
The report also showed that Thailand faced serious social problems last year due to an increase in the level of inappropriate material available online, especially among children and youth.
It also said the number of young Thai mothers had continued to rise, with the highest growth rate in Asia. The birth rate among women below 20 years of age rose from 13.55 percent in 2009 to 13.76 percent in 2010.
Meanwhile, the number of criminal cases increased last year, particularly for serious drug offenses, with drug-related arrests increasing 30 percent from 2010.
Thais aged 15 years and over were reported to have an alcohol-consumption rate nine times the world average, and young people aged 15 to 24 need to be closely monitored, the report said.