The Labour Ministry is investigating recent business closures to determine whether they were linked to the nationwide minimum wage hike.
Narumol Tarndamrong, an adviser to Labour Minister Padermchai Sasomsap, confirmed yesterday several business operators had closed their doors and laid off workers since the 300-baht daily minimum wage increase took effect on Jan 1.
"We will find out the true cause of their closures. They might have been affected [by the wage hike] or maybe they were having other unrelated problems," she said.
According to Labour Ministry figures, 421 workers were laid off between Jan 1 and Thursday as five manufacturers closed their doors.
Ms Narumol said the ministry would provide assistance, such as financial aid and welfare for workers, if operators were affected by the wage rise.
Prakuad Tansophon, a member of the Ranong Industry Council, said many local operators were planning to shift their base of operations to neighbouring Myanmar where wage levels are much lower.
"We are suffering from various problems, such as shortages of raw materials and human resources as well as high labour costs," he said.
Meanwhile, the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI) has urged the government to sponsor technological investment for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to ensure their long-term survival as labour costs rise.
Somchai Jitsuchon, a research director at the TDRI, said manufacturers should pay more attention to research and development to remain competitive in global markets, as they no longer have the advantage of cheap labour costs now that the minimum wage has gone up.
Investing in new technologies would help businesses in the long run, he said.
However, Mr Somchai said SMEs were struggling to raise enough capital to acquire advanced technology, so the government should step in and help.
Technological development would help maintain the competitiveness of Thai exports, he said.
"The government should not simply deny the lay-offs are related to the 300-baht daily minimum wage policy. They must prove it," he said.
"If the impact of the wage hike is proving critical for businesses, the government must find ways to help."
Yongyuth Chalamwong, director of labour development research at the TDRI, predicted the wage hike would bring greater purchasing power for consumers. However, he said inflation could also be a concern as higher labour costs are passed on to consumers.
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- Writer: Penchan Charoensuthipan