Young people are tomorrow's future, yet they face many challenges hindering proper opportunities to attain decent work and fulfil their aspirations. Fewer Thai youth have jobs than a decade ago, says the Ministry of Labour. The unemployment rate for young people aged 15–24 is seven times higher than the adult unemployment rate of 4.87%.
Having job skills that do not align with the labour market's needs has resulted in young people facing various obstacles when they leave school and look for work. Currently, 4.11 million young people are in the labour force, compared to 5.34 million not in the labour force, according to the Labour Ministry.
In the face of an ageing population and disruptive technology, not to mention the pandemic, Thailand must equip all young people with skills to participate productively in tomorrow's economy. Thus, preparing them to have the skills required in the labour market and rewarding employment is vital for the future of the economy, and society's development.
The report showed that only one-quarter of adolescent labourers in the shrimp and seafood-processing industry were aware of child labour laws, and nearly 65% did not have a labour contract. Men earn more than women in some, but not all, sectors (mainly agriculture and industry); the opposite is happening in the service and communication sectors, but gender disparity persists.
The Ministry of Labour has attached immense importance to promote employment among youth by collaborating with organisations, including employers and employees, to protect worker rights and promote employment opportunities.
Youth should be provided with opportunities to develop soft and hard skills, offered career guidance for productive employment, and allowed to choose jobs independently. However, solving these issues cannot be done unilaterally and requires cooperation from all sectors.
Quality internships and training opportunities are currently lacking in Thailand, which is seen as a missed opportunity for youth and businesses. Young people need significant reskilling and upskilling in technical and soft skills to keep up and adapt to the labour market in the 21st century.
Effective collaborations are needed to improve young people's lives and alleviate poverty. Since 2018, Save the Children (Thailand) Foundation has been collaborating with the United States Agency for International Development (USAid) to provide career training and promote equitable employability of youth in the Deep South -- a place which has long suffered from low economic growth and high unemployment.
In September 2022, the "Achieve" project began working with Marriott's Thailand Business Council to improve the project's food and hospitality services course. Through this collaboration, youth will benefit from adequate training that covers communications, social skills, positive self-concept, self-control, and higher-order thinking skills.
These combined training and on-site internships are valuable opportunities for young people in the Deep South to widen their experience and connections in the hospitality industry, enhance their status in the job market and raise their income. Taking this as an example, the private sector and organisations together can improve the accessibility of scholarships for youth from disadvantaged backgrounds, including simplifying the application process.
Improving the situation on youth employment must be the priority in the country. One step at a time, the government should start by creating an education system that is more inclusive and relevant to the labour market. The Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI) has found young people who completed bachelor's degrees and could perform highly skilled jobs have the highest unemployment rate at 17.2%. Education mismatch often happens due to oversupply in certain job positions that leaves consequences to those unemployed submitting for lower qualified jobs.
Second, young people are to be provided with technical/vocational education, training, and certification from accredited independent public and private institutions, helping to improve their employability.
Third, a systemic approach to supporting disadvantaged youth, especially young women in the labour market, must be encouraged. They should also be educated on their rights as workers.
More importantly, the private sector and the government should partner to improve legislation and enhance support to provide a safety net for youth in informal employment. This includes strengthening social protection measures and providing support for youth engaging in entrepreneurship to reduce their vulnerability to economic instability.
Prasert Tepanart is the Executive Director of Save the Children (Thailand) Foundation.