Will better wages and benefits for labour really lead to lost export competitiveness, bankruptcy and a flood of cheap immigrant labour?
Read today's articles in the Bangkok Post on the minimum wage debate (On international competiveness and labour productivity and also most viewed: tourist areas to get a wage hike). Also read previous articles from learning section on web with vocabulary (See #1, #2 #3 including the US human trafficking report which covers migrant workers smuggled into the country).
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EDITORIAL: A real need for decent wages (22/07/2011)
Since it is likely that Pheu Thai Party will have to fulfil its promise of a 300-baht minimum wage policy, the industrial sector has begun waging a concerted battle to oppose this move
The proposed minimum wage would wreak havoc on the Thai economy and tear the social fabric, the industrialists warn. Among their threats: consumers will suffer from more expensive goods; exports will lose competitiveness; businesses will go bankrupt en masse; social tensions will rise following the inundation of immigrant workers as cheap labour substitutes.
Such fierce opposition has sent Pheu Thai into a policy retreat. Instead of a wage increase across the country as promised, the party now says the 300-baht minimum wage would first apply to Bangkok and Phuket only. Other provinces would have to wait.
The workers are furious, naturally. But there is nothing much they can do till the next general election.
While the industry is asking loudly whether the Thai economy can survive a 300-baht minimum daily wage, an equally important question is how much longer can Thailand survive by relying solely on cheap labour for export competitiveness.
Another question: Can Thailand survive at all when industrial growth is essentially based on labour exploitation.
According to economist Narong Petprasert of Chulalongkorn University, 60% of the labour force earns less than 6,000 baht a month. They then have to work more than 10-12 hours a day without enough rest so as to earn extra income since their families cannot live on the present 215-baht minimum wage .
This is inhuman, to say the least.
Despite such a low wage, investors are still turning to immigrant labour. Although the law says immigrant workers must be paid the same minimum wage, in reality they get much less money and do much more work.
Investors often say they cannot find Thai workers to fill the jobs. But the main reason Thai workers refuse those jobs is because of the extremely low wages and slave-like working conditions. By focusing on the cheapest labour possible, such exploitation actually works against Thai products in the international market, which is increasingly paying attention to labour justice.
But raising the minimum wage alone is not enough to improve the workers' quality of life. Apart from providing workers with training to further improve their skills and wages, the new government should pay attention to the recommendations of the National Reform Committee: to bridge labour injustice through a host of welfare support initiatives.
Among its proposals are support for lodgings near the workplace, day-care for workers' infants, extra support for education and healthcare for workers' families, and the setting up of revolving funds to provide low-interest loans and to encourage savings.
Refusing to improve the workers' quality of life could actually end up destabilising the economy. Fury against disparity and social injustice is among the main causes of the recent political violence. Consequently, the economy suffered badly, which should make the industrial sector realise that social injustice is indeed bad for business.
Regime change through an election may ease political tensions but it cannot tackle the root causes of public discontent. If disparity deepens, political violence is certain to recur.
By then, an industrial green light for a decent minimum wage would be too little, too late.
(Source: Bangkok Post, EDITORIAL, A real need for decent wages, 22/07/2011, link)
labour - a social class (large group of people in society) of those people those who do manual labor or work for wages, in Thailand a large informal sector with a "big casual workforce floating between many jobs" moving "back and forth between agriculture and the urban informal sector" as Professor Pasuk Phongpaichit describes it in her lecture (See Wikipedia and Google Definitions and Wikipedia's Organized Labour Portal)
labour force - all the workers and people looking for work in an economy, also called "workforce" (See Wikipedia)
wages - the amount of money earned per hour or per day by a worker ค่าจ้าง (a monthly "salary" is more common in higher paid jobs)
minimum wage - the lowest daily wage that a company can legally pay workers for their work (See Wikipedia and Thailand's minimum wage at 28% of per capita GDP is comparatively low, see comparative maps with other indicators of inequality, poverty and economic development)
decent - has acceptable standard or quality
decent wages - wages that are high enough to be acceptable (high enough to support a family)
justice - when people are treated fairly and equally (See Wikipedia) ความยุติธรรม
labour justice - when labour (as a group of people or class) is treated fairly
injustice - failure to treat someone fairly and to respect their rights ความไม่ยุติธรรม
labour injustice - when labour is not treated fairly
disparity - a big difference between two things
social injustice - when some groups in society are treated unfairly
improve - to make better ทำให้ดีขึ้น
training - to teach people how to do an activity or job การฝึกฝน
skills - a type of work or task requiring special training and knowledge ทักษะ ความสามารถเฉพาะทาง
welfare - 1. help given, especially by the state or an organization, to people who need it; good care and living conditions สวัสดิภาพ 2. good health and happiness, living in good conditions (with health, wealth, and happiness) ความสะดวกสบาย, ความมีสุขภาพด
policy - a set of plans or action agreed on by a government, political party, business, or other group นโยบาย (See Wikipedia)
retreat - move away from, get less involved in
policy retreat - to stop a policy you were doing to do (or at least change it lot) when many people oppose it
sector - a part of the economy ภาคเศรษฐกิจของประเทศ (public sector = government, private sector = all businesses, household sector = families and consumers, banking sector,...) (See Wikipedia)
support - help, by giving money, for example สนับสนุน
welfare support initiatives - government programs to help people to make their lives better
a host of wealth support initiatives - a large number of wealth support initiatives
healthcare - the treatment and prevention of diseases and other medical problems
funds - money needed or available to spend on something เงินทุน
provide - to give someone something that they want or need
interest - payments made for the use of another's money for a period of time
low-interest loans - borrowing money with a low interest rate (so high interest rate does not make it even more difficult to pay the money back)
encourage - cause someone to gain enthusiasm, motivation, and energy in what they are doing, make someone more likely to do something, or to make something more likely to happen ปลุกใจ
encourage savings - help people start saving money for important things in their life such as education of children, medical emergencies and retirement
quality of life - how happy and satisfied people feel in their life; money and income is important but not the only determining factor (See Wikipedia)
stable - when a system functions in a smooth predictable way (without sudden large changes)
stabilize - make system more stable
destabilize - make system less stable
destabilising the economy - making the economy less stable
violence - physical force with the deliberate intention of causing damage to property or injury or death to people ความรุนแรง
political violence - when there is violence as part of political protests or a crackdown on those protests
fabric - material used to make clothes
social fabric - the human relations and "sense of community" that holds society together (See Wikipedia)
tension - a situation with great distrust between different groups of people and conflict and violence is very likely
social tensions - disagreements and lack of trust between different groups in society that could break out in conflict and violence ความตึงเครียด
ease - to make less severe บรรเทา to make or become less severe, difficult, unpleasant, painful, etc ทำให้ง่าย
ease political tensions - reduce the political tensions
tackle - to make an organised and determined attempt to deal with a problem แก้ปัญหา, จัดการกับปัญหา
discontent - the unhappy feeling that you have when you are not satisfied with something ไม่พอใจ
root causes of public discontent - the main reasons that people are not happy and not satisfied
industrialists - managers and owners
consumers - people who buy things (individuals and families)
international - ระหว่างประเทศ between countries
international market - the buying and selling of goods and services between countries
competitiveness - how well a business can do compared to other firms (does it have lower price or higher quality?) การแข่งขัน how well a company is able to maintain or gain customers in a market
bankrupt - when a business fails and the assets are sold off by a court (liquidation) (See Wikipedia)
en masse - in large numbers
go bankrupt en masse - situation with many companies all failing and going out of business (and laying off employees) all at the same time
relying solely on cheap labour for export competitiveness - producing cheap goods for export with cheap labour (better: more expensive and sophisticated goods with more skilled and expensive labour)
economic growth - growth in the size of the whole economy (from all business activities: manufacturing, tourism, agriculture, etc)
industrial growth - growth of manufacturing in a country
exploitation - unfair treatment of someone, or the use of a situation in a way that is wrong การใช้หาประโยชน์อย่างไม่ถูกต้อง
labour exploitation - unfair treatment of labour
inhuman - extremely cruel (not of the high standard that true "humans" should meet)
immigrant - a person who has come to a different country in order to live here permanently ผู้อพยพ, คนย้ายถิ่น
immigrant workers - workers who go to another richer country to work and live
substitute - alternative, replacement คนหรือสิ่งที่เข้าแทนที่, ตัวแทน, สิ่งแทน
X is a substitute for Y - X can be used instead of Y (to do whatever Y does)
cheap labour substitutes - cheap labour (from a poorer neighbor country, for example) that can be used instead of the currently more expensive labour within the country
inundation - flooding น้ำท่วม
inundation of immigrant workers as cheap labour substitutes - businesses often talk about a "labour shortage" but this is only a shortage at low wages and undesirable working conditions, Thai workers are free to negotiate and improve these wages and working conditions, imported foreign labour is not free to do this
fulfil promise - do what you promised
make a concerted effort - working together to achieve goals
waging a concerted battle - working together to prevent it (like fighting a war together)
oppose - to disagree with or not approve of a plan or policy คัดค้าน
proposed - suggested (but not yet chosen or decided upon)
havoc - great disorder and confusion
wreak havoc - cause great disorder and confusion
suffer - to experience physical or mental pain
fierce - very intense and very aggressive
opposition - strong disagreement with a plan or policy ความขัดแย้ง
apply - to make use of something นำมาใช้
furious - very angry
election - the process of choosing a person or a group of person for a position, especially by voting elect (v) electoral (adj) synonym: the polls การเลือกตั้ง
general election - a big election in which most MPs in parliament are chosen as well as the Prime Minister
survive - to continue to exist and live รอดพ้น อยู่รอด สืบต่อไปได้ มีชีวิตรอด
essentially - for the most part ที่สำคัญที่สุด
X based on Y -
income - money that people receive from work or some other source, used for household consumption and savings
reality - whats is actually happening (not just what people say or pretend is happening) ความเป็นจริง
reason - an explanation of an event, why an event happened เหตุ ; เหตุผล ; สาเหตุ
refuse - say they will not do something s
fury - anger that is violent or very strong
realise - to know about ตระหนัก รู้
regime - a government or system for running a country
regime change - a change in govenrment or system for running a country
recur - happen again
green light for - a signal to go ahead with something (here: industry support for the wage hike)
too little, too late - not enough resources were used to solve the problem and they were used too late
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