As the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) will go into full effect in late 2015, the Ministry of Labor is striving to tackle urgent labor problems and prepare the Thai workforce for the changing labor situation in the future.
Labor Minister General Surasak Karnjanarat cited four urgent issues that must be managed in advance of AEC through close cooperation with other government agencies.
The first issue involves the management of migrant workers in a systematic manner. The objective is to regularize all migrant workers in order to better protect their rights. Thailand established one-stop-service registration centers for migrant workers in June 2014.
Statistics compiled from 26 June to 31 October 2014 show that the centers registered a total of 1.6 million migrants from Cambodia, Myanmar, and Laos. Out of this number, 1.5 million are migrant workers, while 92,311 are their family members. The province with the highest number of registered migrant workers is Bangkok, followed by Chon Buri and Samut Sakhon.
The Labor Minister stressed the need for effective management of migrant labor. Legal implications must also be considered. For example, foreign workers are not allowed to engage in certain occupations. Other issues involve guidelines to deal with unregistered migrant workers. As Thailand established special economic zones in five border areas in December 2014, a number of migrant workers from neighboring countries have come to work there and return to their countries on the same day.
The second issue involves the restructuring of Thailand’s workforce development. Permanent Secretary for Labor Nakorn Silpa-Archa once proposed the establishment of the Ministry of Human Resources, which will work in an integrated manner with the Ministry of Education, the Thailand Professional Qualification Institute, and the Federation of Thai Industries. The objective is to produce workforce in response to the needs of the country and in moving toward the ASEAN Community.
On the third issue, the Labor Minister said that Thailand needs to prepare for changes in the labor situation in the next five or six years. Thailand’s labor structure will have changed by then, since the country is becoming an ageing society and the growth of its workforce is likely to slow down.
There will be more sub-contract workers and professional workers from neighboring countries. In this regard, the Ministry of Labor must work out a roadmap to prepare for the new situation and ensure sufficient local workforce and welfare for workers.
The fourth issue involves the solving of human trafficking. The Government has declared the fight against human trafficking as an urgent issue and a national effort. Concerning this issue, the Ministry of Labor will work with other relevant agencies in a proactive manner.