Businesses are calling on the government to ease a strict rule that will prohibit factories awarded investment privileges by the Board of Investment from hiring foreign workers.
They warned thousands of factories will close and exports will be hard hit by the rule, due to take effect early next year. According to an export industry source, operators are gravely concerned about the rule as labour-intensive industries are short of workers.
"The key problem is that we don't have Thai workers who are willing to work in the jobs done by foreign workers," he said. "If the government strictly abides by the rule, thousands of factories would be subject to closure."
Another key problem is the Labour Ministry's mandate for domestic employers to register all foreign workers by Friday.
Myanmar's authorities have recently asked the Thai government to delay the requirement, believing it was unlikely to process the registration of more than 400,000 Myanmar workers on schedule.
"Many Myanmar people are of minority groups and it is difficult to prove their nationalities," said the source.
The Housing Business Association has expressed similar concerns over the lingering labour crunch in the construction and property sectors, warning the situation is expected to worsen early next year when illegal Myanmar migrants are no longer allowed to work in Thailand.
"Labourers from Myanmar are the major pool in the construction sector," said association president Issara Boonyoung. "A stricter rule requiring only Myanmar workers with passports to work legally in Thailand will hit the construction sector hard."
At least one million Myanmar workers live in Thailand.
As Myanmar continues political and economic reforms, analysts have begun to point out that the positive developments will tighten the labour market in Thailand over the next few years.
An estimated 3-4 million foreigners work in Thailand, but registered foreign workers are reported at only 1.38 million.
According to the latest study by the government's planning agency, the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB), Thailand's labour shortage is likely to intensify over the next 10 years as the native population ages and foreign workers choose to return home to help growing economies.
Thailand will need 46.52 million labourers in the next decade, 5.36 million of whom should be from Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and elsewhere.
The study said economic development in those countries, fuelled by foreign investment and rising wages, may draw their people back home, leading to a shortfall of factory workers in Thailand.
According to the NESDB study, the advent of the Asean Economic Community in 2016 will spur labour demand in Thailand to 43.26 million, with foreign workers surpassing 3.9 million.
The Thai workforce has an estimated 39.01 million workers.
About the author
- Writer: Phusadee Arunmas
Position: Business Reporter