Thailand may lose up to 14.4 million jobs in the second and third quarters, largely because of the coronavirus outbreak and widespread drought, says the government’s planning unit.
Of the total, some 8.4 million workers are estimated to be at risk of job loss, 2.5 million of whom are in the tourism sector (excluding retail and wholesale trading sector), 1.5 million in the industrial sector and 4.4 million in other parts of the service sector, said the National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC).
The tourism sector employs an estimated 3.9 million people, while the industrial sector, diminished by the trade war, hires about 5.9 million workers.
Workers in other parts of the service sector, such as schools or places with large groups of people such as fresh markets, sports stadiums or shopping malls are estimated to number 10.3 million people.
Thosaporn Sirisamphand, the NESDC’s secretary-general, said the drought crisis, which started in the middle of last year and continued into the first quarter of this year, has also resulted in a reduction of employment in the agricultural sector.
There were about 370,000 seasonally unemployed workers, the highest in seven years for the farm sector.
In April, 26 provinces announced the assistance area for emergency disaster victims (drought). There are about 3.9 million farmers faced with drought and 2.1 million farmers in other areas with insufficient water were unable to engage in agricultural activities.
A total of 6 million farmers were affected by drought, Mr Thosaporn said.
“The impact of the outbreak and the drought on unemployment will be apparent in the second quarter and more clearly in the second half of the year," he said. "In 2020, the unemployment rate is expected to stay within 3-4% throughout the year with no more than 2 million unemployed. The pandemic is getting under control and in May the government began to relax the tight control measures, allowing some economic activities to be reopened.”
Mr Thosaporn said the government has announced a spate of relief measures to rehabilitate the domestic economy by focusing on creating employment in the local area and providing training programmes to improve workers' skills and aid measures to help new graduates.
In addition, the agricultural sector remains capable of accommodating some unemployed workers despite the drought.
Mr Thosaporn said the agency plans to ask for financial assistance from the government's 400 billion baht slated for economic and social rehabilitation under the government’s 1.9-trillion-baht relief measure to soften the economic blow from the deadly virus outbreak, to create 200,000 jobs for new graduates.
There are about 520,000 new graduates scheduled to be released to the labour market between May to July.
Today, the NESDC reported Thailand’s unemployment rate was still relatively low in the first quarter at 1.03% of the total workforce or 395,000 people, up from 0.92% in the same quarter of last year or 351,000 people.
On a quarterly basis, the rate dropped from 1.04% in the fourth quarter of last year.
There were 38.19 million workers in the first quarter of this year, down 0.44% from 38.36 million in the same quarter of last year. Of the total, 37.42 million were employed in the period, down 0.7% year-on-year from the first quarter of last year. This marks the fourth straight quarter of decreases.
“In the first quarter, the pandemic had yet to affect employment much,” Mr Thosaporn said.