Economist: Government’s lag on migrant labor is hurting economy


Thailand’s reopening has finally revived the economy and put people back to work, but many businesses are struggling with a shortage of migrant labor. As the government clamps down on immigrants who cross the border illegally in search of work, many sectors are complaining that the government was unprepared for the country’s reopening and made no effort to allow foreign migrant workers.

Businesses estimate that there is a shortage of 400,000 workers needed to work in construction, tourist services, restaurants, food stalls and other local businesses that are often supported by immigrant labor. These sectors call on the government to speed up the process of returning migrant workers after the Covid-19 crisis, and say the government should have foreseen the need for manpower as part of a successful international reopening and accommodate it much sooner.

A Chulalongkorn University labor economist named Lae Dilokvidhyarat called on the government to take swift action, saying its mismanagement of labor issues is hampering the resumption of economic tourism.

“The Thai bureaucracy has failed to facilitate the return of migrant workers, while demand for labor is high due to the reopening of the country. As more and more tourists visit the country, restaurants face a labor shortage. This will prevent the tourism industry from recovering quickly.

Labor Minister Suchat Chomklin plans to sign a memorandum of understanding with each of the neighboring countries that traditionally supply Thailand with migrant workers, stipulating that immigrant workers can legally enter Thailand from next month. But Lae fears it is too late and the high season may be hampered by the delay.

It aims for longer-term solutions and sees Singapore as a model for effective management of the migrant workforce. He says Thailand should coordinate with nearby labor source countries to create free movement of labor that benefits everyone. Expensive entry fees and complicated bureaucracy must be put in place to make the process quick and easy to kick-start the economy and get migrant workers back to work.


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