‘Thailand needs 500,000 more migrant workers for recovery’

This Sept 23, 2018 photo shows a Myanmar migrant worker handling barrels of cotton in a textile factory in Pathum Thani province of Thailand. (LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA / AFP)

BANGKOK – Thailand is short more than half a million migrant workers, the country's Chamber of Commerce said on Tuesday, as Southeast Asia's second-largest economy struggles with a slow post-pandemic recovery.

Demand for workers is high in labour-intensive sectors including agricultural goods and food processing for exports, construction, and tourism and services, Poj Aramwattananont, vice chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, told a news conference.

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"Today, workers are a big issue for driving the economy," he said, adding the country would need a total of at least 3 to 4 million migrant workers to get the economy moving forward.

Thailand will allow illegal workers to be registered and work until February 2025

Barriers to recruiting migrant workers include problems in their home countries such as civil unrest in Myanmar, and competition for workers from other countries like Japan and China, said Poj.

At present, there are about 2.5 million documented migrant workers from Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar, Pairoj Chotikasathien, head of the Labour Ministry's employment department, told the conference.

In a bid to ease the shortage, the cabinet last week approved labour management plans including allowing documented workers to stay until February 2025, he said.

Thailand will also allow illegal workers, this time including those from Vietnam, to be registered and work until February 2025, Pairoj said.

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With the improved labour plans and arrival of more workers, Thailand may see nearly 3 million migrant workers at the end of the year, he said.