Concerned about shortages of skilled labor, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has stressed the need to work out measures to cope with the situation.
The Prime Minister said that many foreign investors had expressed their concern about this issue during their meetings with senior officials at several ministries.
He pointed out that the issue of labor shortages involves not only cyclical but also structural problems. As Thailand and its ASEAN partners are moving toward realizing the ASEAN Community by 2015, labor mobility will be evident. The ASEAN Economic Community blueprint, adopted in 2007, is designed to liberalize flows of goods, investment, capital, services and skilled labor in the ASEAN region.
The Prime Minister said that the agricultural sector, in particular, needs to adjust significantly, since the world is facing a food and energy crisis. Prices of agricultural products have continued to increase and affected food security. This sector is likely to enjoy higher growth as is evident in a great number of workers returning to the farm sector. As a result, the manufacturing and service sectors will have an impact from a shortage of manpower.
Another challenge is that Thailand is moving into an “aging society” with an increasing number of senior citizens. The number of young people entering the labor market remains unchanged, or it is even on the decline. There are both older persons and children who need to depend on income earned by the working population. Some industries may enjoy higher growth, while others may face a slump.
In the face of this situation, the Prime Minister said that all people must adjust to the changing world. They need to develop their skills in response to the market demand and to cope with the shortage of expertise. Workers in both formal and informal sectors should be provided with more benefits and better welfare.
He said that the second round of education reform had begun in order to produce personnel in the fields that face a shortage and ease the unemployment problem. Vocational education will receive a major boost, so that students will be provided with occupational career preparation.
The Ministry of Labor recently announced an increase in minimum wages for skilled workers in 11 fields in line with skill standards for the first time. Today, skilled labor will be guaranteed by a minimum wage of between 200 and 500 baht a day. The announcement will help increase labor quality and efficiency.
The Prime Minister reiterated that skill development would contribute greatly to the efforts to enhance Thailand’s competitiveness. In addition, the labor sector needs to be restructured, as well. In order to achieve this aim, educational institutions, government agencies, and the private sector should work closely together to keep pace with the evolving situation.