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Unemployment edging up, NESDB says

Mar 06. 2017
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By WICHIT CHAITRONG
THE NATION

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ALTHOUGH unemployment was still quite low in 2016 at 0.99 per cent, it has been relentlessly climbing, with rates of 0.8 per cent in 2013 and 0.9 per cent in 2014 and 2015.

The National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) said yesterday that January’s unemployment rate came in higher at 1.2 per cent. 

About 550,000 new graduates are expected to be ready to enter the labour market this year, of whom 61 per cent have only a tertiary education. 

However, the economy has been forecast to grow at 3-4 per cent, with expansions in nearly all industries and in private investment. 

Exports are also believed to be staging a comeback after suffering some sluggishness in the past two to three years. 

“It is believed that these anticipated economic expansions will result in increases in job offers and employment opportunities for newcomers,” said Porametee Vimolsiri, secretary-general of the NESDB.

However, new workers have to have skills in information technology to meet the new challenges.

The digital revolution will see entrepreneurs adapt in various aspects, including the adoption of advanced machines in their production for higher efficiency and less reliance on labour. 

Financing and marketing will made more easily accessible by customers or clients as well as more flexible.

This will inevitably result in changes in labour demand, in terms of qualifications and compensation. Employment in the agricultural sector declined in the fourth quarter of last year, as cultivation had to be postponed after farming areas were damaged by floods. 

Employment in the non-agricultural sector also shrank, but only in manufacturing and transportation, while it strengthened in the construction, wholesale and retail, and hotel and restaurant industries. 

The overall unemployment rate in the quarter was 0.97 per cent, with a slight increase in average working hours in the private sector from 47.1 hours per week last year to 48.9 hours this year, reflecting the signs of economic recovery. 

Last year, salaries and wages, excluding overtime pay and other benefits, improved by 1.8 per cent. 

So did labour productivity, by 4.1 per cent, divided into a 2.7-per-cent increase in the non-agricultural sector and a 5.1-per-cent increase in the agricultural sector.

Labour income rose slower than productivity, but in the long run, wages are expected to catch up with productivity growth, the NESDB says.

The labour force in the fourth quarter was 37.9 million, and 38.3 million in the whole of last year. Those employed in the fourth quarter numbered 37.4 million, down 2.5 per cent year on year. For the full year, those employed numbered 37.7 million, down 0.9 per cent from 2015. 

Those working in the agricultural sector dropped by 6 per cent in the quarter and 4.3 per cent in the full year, largely because of floods. 

The number of employed in the non-agricultural sector fell by 0.7 per cent in the fourth quarter but rose 0.8 per cent for the whole year, according to the NESDB.

Employment and labour income in the agricultural sector might be further undermined by sustained damage from past floods and anticipated drought in some provinces this year, Porametee said.

 

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