Feature: Asian migrant workers may find it hard to get hired in Thailand despite AEC, economist says

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BANGKOK, Oct. 27 (Xinhua) — Migrant workers from Southeast Asian countries will not find it easy to get employed in Thailand despite the implementation next year of the ASEAN Economic Community, according to a noted Thai economist.

In an interview with Xinhua on Monday, Lae Dilokwitayarat, economic professor of Chulalongkorn University, said foreign job- seekers will likely have difficulties getting hired as skilled or semi-skilled laborers despite the expected availability of job opportunities in Thai business sectors as a result of the AEC.

Given the ease in entering Thailand, migrant workers will undoubtedly be tempted to look for jobs in the kingdom but initial agreements reached among the bloc’s member states allow the hiring only of workers with certain skills or professions, such as doctors, dentists, engineers, surveyors, architects, nurses and accountants.

In addition, Southeast Asian workers could also seek jobs in tourist-related industries such as hotels, restaurants and other entertainment establishments. These would include tour guides, receptionists, waitresses and housemaids, among other semi-skilled jobs.

But Lae said what could deter Asian workers from seeking employment in Thailand are some protectionist policies that include rules and regulations imposed by the government aimed to preserve several job categories for Thais.

“Migrant workers will not find it easy to work in Thailand just because the whole of ASEAN is turning into an economic community. Thailand will almost certainly impose restrictions and measures to have Thais employed rather than foreign workers from neighboring states,” Lae said.

For instance, he said, migrants applying for a job of construction engineer might be required to have more years of certified experience and other qualifications that Thai applicants don’t have.

“Migrant workers will only be given jobs which the Thais no longer want to accept, especially the low-paying, unskilled ones provided at factories, farms and food shops,” said the economist.

On top of that, Lae said, the presence of too many migrant workers in Thailand could jeopardize the country’s national security, which the Thai military rulers would not allow to happen.

Yongyuth Chalaemwong, a researcher attached to the Thailand Development Research Institute, earlier cautioned that a large number of migrants from AEC member states might take advantage of the agreement “to steal” certain jobs reserved for Thai citizens.

Job-seekers, particularly those who have learned and practiced English as a second language, are more likely to get hired than the Thais, especially in the tourism sector and related industries that are expected to expand with the implementation of AEC, Yongyuth said.

Yongyuth said Thailand currently ranks at the bottom of the list of the 10 Southeast Asian countries whose citizens are proficient in English both written and oral.

“Besides the Philippines, the Vietnamese are known to have a good command of English, many of whom will likely come over to seek jobs in Thailand’s tourist industry, restaurants and food shops. They might possibly replace the Thais in such business sectors,” Yongyuth said.

According to Yongyuth, an estimated 4.8 million Thais are currently employed in the tourist industry and related service sectors throughout the country.

However, that number will not be enough to take care of tens of millions of visitors expected to visit Thailand every year with the implementation of AEC, Yongyuth said.

He lamented that thousands of Thais have taken tourism courses at colleges each year only to find themselves employed in jobs other than those in the tourism industry or related fields.

“Compared to the English-speaking migrants, Thais are unprepared for tourism-oriented jobs where English is required to communicate with foreign tourists,” he said.

An estimated two million Myanmar migrants, 400,000 Cambodians, 100,000 Laotians and 30,000 Vietnamese are currently employed, either legally or illegally, throughout Thailand. The number is expected to increase next year. Most are hired as lowly-paid unskilled laborers.

Source: Shanghai Daily