Thailand's labour development policy is failing to equip workers with the skills they need for a free labour market in Southeast Asia over the next five years, academics say Under the ASEAN Economic Community framework, ASEAN members have agreed to pilot a free labour market plan by allowing specialists and professionals in seven fields - medicine, dentistry, nursing, engineering, architecture, natural resources and geographical exploration, and accounting - to work anywhere they like across the region in 2015.
The free labour market may eventually expand to cover all fields and levels of jobs. Thai workers will enjoy more opportunities to work abroad, but they will face tougher competition as well. Thai workers would need better English skills, Mr Santi [Bamrungkunakorn, director of the Office of Skill Standards and Testing Development. said. The government should launch measures to sharpen their skills and even "put pressure on them to learn English," he said.
Few Thais would be able to compete in an ASEAN labour market now, partly because educational standards among Thai students are lacking, said Chumpol Pornprapa of the national commission of labour development and career training coordination under the Department of Skill Development.
The International Institute of Management Development in Switzerland placed Thailand at 47th out of 57 countries in a survey last year of educational efficiency, Mr Chumpol said Pimonwan Mahatchariyawong, of the Kasikorn Research Centre, said she was worried by the slow pace of Thai labour development. To pave the way for a free labour market, ASEAN members must set the same working standards for professionals in the seven areas and criteria to select those qualified to take part
Mr Chumpol said few Thai professionals may be attracted at first because they are still in demand in their own country.Thai doctors from state hospitals may be more interested, because pay rates here are low compared with elsewhere in the region, said Medical Council president Somsak Lohlekha.