Govt urged to cut labour import cost

Govt urged to cut labour import cost

Businesses struggle amid dire shortage

Officials arrest about 60 illegal Myanmar migrants in Thong Pha Phum district, Kanchanaburi, in November. (Photo: Piyarat Chongcharoen)
Officials arrest about 60 illegal Myanmar migrants in Thong Pha Phum district, Kanchanaburi, in November. (Photo: Piyarat Chongcharoen)

Businesses have appealed to the Labour Ministry to reduce the expenses involved in importing migrant workers and shore up labour shortages.

Labour Minister Suchart Chomklin said so far labour imports via the memorandum of understandings (MoU) signed with neighbouring countries have missed their targets.

Many business owners have sought to recruit migrant workers from Myanmar through an MoU. However, the ongoing unrest has prevented recruitment from being processed.

The ministers said business operators were concerned that if not enough workers are imported in time, their businesses would be unable to meet orders and subsequently face a fine.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha was particularly worried about the construction sector which relies heavily on migrant workers.

The private companies have urged the ministry to find other ways to amend regulations governing the import of foreign labour in order to reduce costs, for example, cutting back on expenses associated with health screening and quarantine.

To date, businesses have submitted 1,813 requests to bring in 113,717 migrant workers via the MoUs. However, so far, only about 300 workers from Cambodia have arrived in Thailand and been employed under that agreement.

Mr Suchart said he has instructed Department of Employment director-general Pairoj Chotikasathien to consult the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration about ways to reduce costs related to labour imports.

Reductions may be achieved by cutting the quarantine period and easing test procedures without compromising public health safety.

Mr Suchart recently held informal talks with private and state agencies to deal with labour shortages. The agencies include the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI), the Thai Chamber of Commerce, the Thai Contractors Association, the Defense Ministry, the Interior Ministry, the Public Health Ministry, the Immigration Bureau (IB) and the Department of Provincial Administration.

The Labour Ministry has agreed to support bringing in migrant workers in nine border provinces, starting with Chanthaburi. Under the arrangement, workers can cross into Thailand to work and return home at the end of each working day.

Five provinces, including Chanthaburi, share their borders with Cambodia and the rest with Myanmar.

Suchart Chantaranakaracha, the FTI vice chairman for labour affairs, said the labour shortage has become critical, with an estimated deficit of half a million, so the easing of regulations to turn the situation around has become critical.

He suggested the labour minister meet his counterparts in neighbouring countries to impress upon them the urgency to supply workers and also discuss legalising undocumented workers already in the country to help cope with the labour shortfall.

The IB should also reduce the visa fee from 2,000 to 500 baht per person while vaccinated migrant workers should have a shorter quarantine in Thailand, added Mr Suchart.

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