Thailand: Employment set to remain flat in H2

Thailand’s employment rate is expected to remain flat in the second half of this year as the global economy has turned sluggish, the country’s tourism industry has yet to fully recover, and local politics remain uncertain, says the Employers’ Confederation of Thai Trade and Industry (EconThai).

In the first quarter of this year, the number of workers stood at 39.6 million out of a working-age population of 40.2 million, said Tanit Sorat, vice-chairman of EconThai, citing data from the National Statistical Office.

The number of unemployed was 0.42 million, while the remaining 0.23 million were farmers who did not work during the break between cropping seasons.

Mr Tanit does not expect higher or lower employment during the next six months as the prospects for exports are not good this year, while tourism needs more time to fully recover.

“After Thailand and China reopened their borders, many tourists, especially Chinese travellers, visited Thailand. We earlier expected to draw 5 million Chinese tourists by May but missed the target,” Mr Tanit said.

However, tourism will continue to be a key industry driving the economy forward and boosting employment at a time when exports have slowed down.

The Joint Standing Committee on Commerce, Industry and Banking earlier this month cut its export growth forecast to -2% this year, down from -1%, and expected its best-case scenario for exports to be zero growth.

The committee’s latest projection was based on the global economic slowdown and estimates for China’s growth to fall to 5.4-5.5%, down from a previous estimate of 6%, as well as rising interest rates.

Mr Tanit said Thai politics could also affect employment as businesses want to see the establishment of a new government first before deciding on future investment plans. But it has so far remained unclear what the new government will look like.

“It’s difficult for companies to hire new workers during the ongoing political situation,” Mr Tanit said.

Last year, some 500,000 students graduated from educational institutions. Around 300,000 of them secured jobs in companies, while 200,000 were unemployed because their qualifications did not match employers’ demands or they opted to be freelancers, according to EconThai.