The Employers' Confederation of Thai Trade and Industry (EconThai) is concerned about the growing underemployment rate that is affecting people's purchasing power after the number of unemployed individuals reached 4.3 million since the Covid-19 outbreak began in Thailand.
Underemployment refers to workers who work between 0-20 hours. They are not unemployed, according to the Labour Ministry, which is the usual measure consulted when assessing economic health.
But the rapid increase in the number of underemployed workers, which rose from 2.3 million workers in December last year to 4.3 million in March this year, caught the interest of EconThai.
The group is closely monitoring the figure, which are expected to increase in June and July.
"The 4.3 million underemployed workers were tallied during the first two outbreaks of the pandemic in Thailand," said EconThai vice-chairman Tanit Sorat.
The third outbreak, which erupted in April, is expected to increase this figure.
"This is a large group of workers who play a role in driving the economy forward," said Mr Tanit.
According to EconThai, the pandemic has changed the Thai labour structure, with around 1 million workers returning to their home provinces to work as farmers.
To gain more insight into the Covid-19 impact on the Thai labour market, EconThai is working with the National Statistical Office to examine the workforce.
In 2021, the number of workers in Thailand, including migrant workers from neighbouring countries, stood at 37.6 million, down from 38.9 million last year. From January to March this year, the unemployment rate was 2%, up from 1.1% in the same period last year.
The highest unemployment rate during the pandemic was 2.5% between September and October last year after the country felt the effects of the first outbreak and subsequent lockdown measures, said EconThai.
According to the National Economic and Social Development Council, workers who are unemployed due to Covid-19 are more likely to stay out of a job for the long term. Since the outbreak began in 2020, many laid-off formal workers have become informal workers, a group that is not protected by any safety net measures and lack social security coverage.