Labour Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn has pledged to raise the minimum wage to an appropriate level next year, but the benchmark of 400 baht per day would not be applied to all sectors as some, such as tourism, already surpass that threshold.
Mr Phiphat said the ministry is studying and discussing an appropriate rate with employers and employee representatives, including the Federation of Thai Industries and the Thai Chamber of Commerce.
Rather than proposing a fixed rate of 400 baht, he said the level will be adjusted based on the inflation rate, living costs, and the province and industry type.
The study is expected to be finished in November, with a new minimum wage announced as a New Year's gift for workers from January next year, said Mr Phiphat.
As a minimum wage hike would apply to workers regardless of nationality, the ministry will focus on upskilling and reskilling Thai employees to meet employer demand, especially for occupations reserved for Thai nationals, he said.
Reskilled workers will be guaranteed a daily wage of at least 400 baht, said Mr Phiphat, who was previously the tourism minister.
He said a 400-baht benchmark will not affect the tourism segment as much as other sectors because many tourism businesses pay skilled workers at a rate exceeding the baseline.
The tourism industry still lacks about 1 million workers, roughly 25% below the level in 2019, said Mr Phiphat.
The ministry will focus on attracting graduates with foreign language skills, such as English, to work in the tourism industry by providing short training courses, he said. This strategy will be prioritised, rather than importing foreign workers to Thailand as some businesses have requested, said Mr Phiphat.
The Skill Development Department has trained more than 280,000 workers in the tourism industry this year. It aims to upskill and reskill at least 400,000 tourism workers in 2024.
Sisdivachr Cheewarattanaporn, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents, said the visa-free scheme for Chinese and Kazakh tourists might not lead to an immediate influx of large tour groups. He said tour operators only have half the employee level as in 2019.
The slow resumption of tour groups will help tour companies gradually resume employment, eventually accommodating more tourists when flow is stronger next year, said Mr Sisdivachr.
In addition to the minimum wage hike, the government should consider minimising costs for operators too, he said.