Migrant worker registrations far below target

Migrant worker registrations far below target

Employers submit information to register their migrant workers at the Labour Ministry in Bangkok on July 24. (Photo by Apichart Jinakul)
Employers submit information to register their migrant workers at the Labour Ministry in Bangkok on July 24. (Photo by Apichart Jinakul)

Fewer than 200,000 migrant workers were registered in the first week of a new government programme, far short of the target of 600,000 to 800,000 that authorities had set.

The Labour Ministry said that 58,066 employers had sought registration for 190,926 workers since Monday at centres set up across the country.

The registration drive was a response to employer complaints about the sudden introduction last month of tough new rules against illegal labour. The government subsequently backed down and delayed enforcement for six months to give employers and workers more time to comply.

Ananchai Uthaipattanacheep, a spokesman for the Labour Ministry, said the figures were compiled from 100 registration outlets nationwide including 11 in Bangkok. Registrations started on Monday. On Friday alone, 10,555 employers sought to register 38,208 workers.

Most of the applications came from Bangkok, Samut Prakan, Rayong, Pathum Thani and Nonthaburi provinces, and were filed for workers from Myanmar, followed by Cambodian and Lao migrants.

The largest number of applications was for farm labourers, followed by construction, food and beverage sales, general services and farming-related businesses, Mr Ananchai said.

Registrations will continue between 8.30am and 4.30pm every day until Aug 7. Afterwards, subsequent procedures will lead to nationality verification and work permits for the migrants.

The government says employers must finish the whole process before Jan 1, when enforcement of the new law will begin. It calls for fines of up to 800,000 baht per illegal employee and jail terms of up to five years for illegal foreign workers.

The military government on June 22 issued the new decree hurriedly and with minimal consultation of businesses and employers, saying it urgently needed to show the world that it was getting tough on human trafficking.

It was then forced to suspend enforcement for six months after tens of thousands of frightened foreign migrants left the country, resulting in severe labour shortages in many industries.

There are an estimated 4 million foreign workers in the country but anywhere between 1 million and 2 million are said to be illegal. This is partly because the registration process is cumbersome and expensive. Corruption is also widespread.

As a result, many employers hire people under the table, pay them less than the minimum wage and offer very few protections.

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