Wage hikes stir discontent
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Wage hikes stir discontent

Critics blast 'discriminatory' policy as they mark Labour Day

Workers restore the road surface in Soi Wat Palad Priang in Bang Phli district of Samut Prakan on April 22. (Photo: Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)
Workers restore the road surface in Soi Wat Palad Priang in Bang Phli district of Samut Prakan on April 22. (Photo: Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

To mark International Labour Day on Wednesday, academics and labour activists have stepped up their calls on the government to increase minimum daily wages for workers nationwide following rises in parts of 10 provinces that took effect on April 13.

The latest hike to 400 baht a day was approved by the tripartite wage committee on March 26.

It has been applied to tourism-related businesses and four-star hotels with at least 50 employees, according to Pairoj Chotikasathien, permanent secretary for the Labour Ministry and chairman of the committee.

The hike is applied to Bangkok's Pathumwan and Watthana districts, Chiang Mai's Nakhon Chiang Mai municipality, all of Phuket, the area under the jurisdiction of tambon Ao Nang administrative organisation in Krabi, Songkhla's Hat Yai municipality, Surat Thani's Koh Samui district, Phangnga's tambon Khuk Khak municipality, Pattaya City in Chon Buri, Prachuap Khiri Khan's Hua Hin municipality, and Rayong's tambon Ban Phae.

However, critics have blasted the latest hike, saying it only benefits workers in the tourism sectors of select regions and, therefore, discriminates against other types of businesses nationwide.

They also said the government should devise measures to help workers cope with the rising cost of living and improve their digital skills.

Special measures

Kiriya Kulkolkarn, a lecturer at Thammasat University's faculty of economics, told the Bangkok Post that apart from an increase in daily wages, the government must come up with other measures to improve workers' quality of life.

These include reducing workers' expenses, controlling the prices of consumer products, and offering incentives to attract foreign investment, she said.

For long-term measures, the industry sector needs restructuring to boost the capacities of small- and-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), modernise businesses and increase workers' digital skills, she said.

Ms Kiriya said that while the 400-baht wage hike benefits employees, it will hurt SMEs that lack sufficient financial resources.

Moreover, as the economy slows, foreign investors, who are forced to pay higher wages, may decide to move their production bases to other countries with lower rates, Ms Kiriya warned.

In response to the wage hike, employers are expected to hire workers on a temporary basis or resort to labour contracting, which will lead to job insecurity, she said.

She said that minimum daily wage rates in Thailand are higher than those in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, but Thai workers' skills, particularly digital skills, cannot compare with those in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.

"The government must boost workers' digital skills and offer incentives to draw investment from foreign investors in modern industries," she said.

Kiriya: Industry rejig needed

Across the board

Chalee Loysoong, an adviser to the Thai Labour Solidarity Committee, told the Bangkok Post he disagreed with the 400-baht wage hikes only made in certain parts of the 10 provinces.

The hike should be applied to all career types in all provinces, he said.

"If the government wants the economy to improve in every province, it should hike wages nationwide. People will have the same wage rates to spend."

He said the government should play a greater role in job counselling to guide workers in making better career choices, adding that digital upskilling is essential in the digital age.

Chalee: Universal hikes lacking

Vijit Dasantad, president of the Phuket Federation of Hotel and Service Labour, told the Bangkok Post the government should step in to curb the rising prices of consumer goods following the wage hikes.

"Some vendors raised their prices beforehand when they heard about the wage hike," he said.

"Wages should be in- creased in all professions, and the government should curb the prices of goods. That would be a true gift for workers,'' he said.

Vijit: Inflation the real problem

The daily minimum wage was raised for all Thai workers on Jan 1, with the new rates varying between provinces, where they range from 330 to 370 baht, according to the tripartite wage committee.

Before Jan 1, the rates were between 328 and 354 baht. The increases range from 2 to 16 baht, or an average of 2.37%.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said earlier that the government would push for minimum wage increases for other areas and business types.

Pheu Thai promised a 400-baht rate during its election campaign last year, rattling businesses that said it threatened to make the country less competitive.

A recent survey suggested if the minimum daily wage rose to 400 baht nationwide, GDP could grow by 2.6%.

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