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Thailand to Limit Workers from Laos, Myanma, and Cambodia

  • Buasawan Simmala
  • Dara Baccam

Thai Labor Minister Oulayvan Thienthong says her government will control the number of foreign workers from Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia who work legally in Thailand, as a measure to solve the country's unemployment problems. This new labor policy aims to reduce the current number of over 2 million foreign workers from the three countries to just 800 thousand beginning next year. Under the new policy, legally registered foreign workers will be allowed to work only in the industries that are significantly short of labor and rejected by Thai workers such as in construction, fishery and agriculture, while the manufacturing sector will be reserved for Thai workers. Thai authorities expect up to 700,000 members of their workforce will be out of job and looking for new employment in 2009 because of the current economic situation. There are currently as many as 300,000 laborers from Laos working in Thailand, but only 80,000 are properly registered as required by Thai laws; thus, this new labor plan number will definitely push Lao workers to fall in a pool of foreign workers facing tough competition in registering to work legally in Thailand.

This new policy will also affect Laos' plan to create and find some 108,000 jobs for its work- force during 2008-09, of which 83,000 jobs will be created domestically while 25,000 will be found in neighboring countries, especially Thailand.

However, in the past year, the Lao government has been able to create barely 40,000 jobs domestically and 8,000 abroad. Therefore, despite the announcement of Thailand’s new controlling labor policy, it is expected that there will be an increase in the number of Lao workers sneaking into Thailand to look for jobs and work there illegally.

In addition, Lao workers often receive low wages which are not enough to cover the forever rising living expenses, and that is another factor that motivates Lao youths to risk seeking illegal employment in Thailand. Also, foreign firms in Laos tend to see that Lao youths lack the required qualifications for their businesses and are unskilled, so they often prefer to hire foreign workers. The same reason accounts for the fact that businesses in Thailand refuse to hire more workers from Laos even though the two nations have signed agreements whereby Thailand would hire a certain number of workers from Laos.

Furthermore, as observed by a Lao official, foreign investments in Laos are not linked to job creation for Lao people, as most foreign investors often bring a whole team of workers from their own countries with them wherever they set up businesses in Laos, even though Lao labor laws state that investments must be linked to job creation for Lao people. If this situation continues, Laos will of a certainty not be able to develop a skilled workforce and solve its labor and unemployment problems.

Listen to Songrit’s report for details in Lao.

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