Lingo class urged for Thai expat workers
The Labour Ministry wants those seeking job opportunities in South Korea to take advantage of free language classes in a bid to cut down on Thais working illegally in the country.
Pairoj Chotikasatien, deputy director-general of the Department of Employment at the ministry told the Bangkok Post that better Korean language skills can reduce the number of illegal labourers, or "Phi Noi" ("little ghosts"), in the country.
"The problem started after the South Korean government began requiring foreign workers to pass a language proficiency test. Only 25% of Thai labourers could pass, which lead many of those who failed to become Phi Noi instead," said Mr Pairoj.
According to the Ministry of Labour, as many as 170,00 Thais are believed to be working illegally in South Korea; however, each year only 6,000 Thai workers take the Korean language proficiency test to apply for work permits.
The ministry plans to help workers improve their skills in a number of languages of countries that have agreements on migrant labour with Thailand.
These nations, which include South Korea and Japan, said Mr Pairoj, will help out the workers financially on condition that the Thai government complies with local regulations.
For example, South Korea requires foreign workers aged between 18-39 years old to pass certain levels of literacy in its language before they are eligible for its "EPS: Employment Permit System".
He explained that even though the department has offered language courses for free in the past, Thai workers often chose pricey but quick courses which promised shortcuts to pass the exam but did not necessarily impart a strong grasp of the local lingo.
However, he admitted the Phi Noi problem goes beyond language skills.
Korean employers often prefer muscular Thai men who may not pass the language test, or females who came into the country as tourists who they can employ more cheaply, said Mr Pairoj.
He was quoting information from South Korea's Ministry of Employment and Labour.