Thailand 4.0 may see 23m redundant

Thailand 4.0 may see 23m redundant

A worker cleans a window at the Airport Rail Link's Makkasan station. Unskilled workers could be left behind by the country's digital push. PATTARACHAI PREECHAPANICH
A worker cleans a window at the Airport Rail Link's Makkasan station. Unskilled workers could be left behind by the country's digital push. PATTARACHAI PREECHAPANICH

Some 23 million unskilled and semi-skilled labourers in the agricultural and industrial sectors are at risk of becoming unemployed once implementation of high technology and innovation in production hit their stride.

Thanit Sorat, vice-chairman of the National Labour Development Advisory Council, said the government's ambitious Thailand 4.0 scheme, which focuses on high-tech industries and innovation, will take a serious toll on the labour market, particularly for unskilled and semi-skilled workers.

"The government desperately needs to come up with strategies to handle such threats by providing more training to each at-risk group in order to get them prepared for the side effects of Thailand 4.0," Mr Thanit said. "All sectors, be it government units, private companies or educational institutes, will need to join hands to tackle the problem."

Thailand is estimated to have a 38.3-million-strong workforce, 37.5 million of whom were employed in the first quarter. There are 5.74 million new workers entering the labour market every year.

Unskilled labourers are estimated at 16.9 million, accounting for 45% of the total workforce. Of that total, 11.2 million are in the farm sector and the rest are in labour-intensive industries.

They are mostly uneducated, with only primary school certificates. This group faces the greatest risk of being made redundant.

There are 6.15 million semi-skilled labourers accounting for 16.4% of the total workforce. They mostly graduated from junior high school and could benefit from vocational training.

"In a nutshell, two groups are expected to see the highest risk of becoming unemployed, as businesses, propelled by the government's Thailand 4.0 policy, gear up for innovations in artificial intelligence, automation, robotics, aerospace and genome technology," Mr Tanit said.

There are 6.1 million workers with high school and vocational certificates, representing 16.3% of the total workforce, he said. A further 8.02 million university graduates hold bachelor's degrees, representing 21.4% of the total workforce. These two groups have the most potential to keep up with high-tech trends.

But Mr Tanit said Thai educational institutes themselves seem to be inactive and slow in churning out the graduates demanded by industry.

He said entrepreneurs also need to accelerate their production upgrades so that they will not fall behind in the fiercely competitive global race.

Mr Tanit also urged the government to come up with an in-depth study of the prospects and competitiveness of Thailand's labour-intensive industries.

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