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Nation’s shrinking workforce troubles planners even as jobless rate stays low

Mar 09. 2018
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By WICHIT CHAITRONG
THE NATION

THE country’s unemployment rate edged up to 1.2 per cent last year, due to an uneven economic recovery and the impact of technological advances, but the rate remained low, the top planning agency said.

Flagged as a concern is that the number of people in the workforce is on a downward trend, the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) said yesterday. In 2016, the jobless rate stood at 1.1 per cent.

The findings came from a report on the country’s social situation in the fourth quarter of 2017 and the outlook for this year that the NESDB released yesterday.

Employment in the fourth quarter was 37.2 million, down 0.6 per cent from the same period in 2016. The number of people employed in agricultural sector dropped 2 per cent to 11.9 million. However, the ranks of those employed in the non-farm sector increased marginally, by 0.1 per cent, to 25.3 million.

For the full year, the total number of employed people was 37.5 million. Some 1.2 per cent - or 451,000 - of the total labour force of 38.1 million was unemployed.

“The economy did not reach a full recovery and floods affected the farming sector. As well, technological change resulted in more installations of automation systems to improve production. Together, these factors impacted the labour market,” said Porametee Vimolsiri, secretary general of the NESDB.

Among the unemployed, a high rate was seen for those with higher education. The jobless rates for those with high vocational certificates, bachelor degrees and vocational certificates were 2.3 per cent, 2.1 per cent and 2 per cent, respectively. The unemployment rate among those who finished secondary school was 1.4 per cent.

The contrasting figures highlighted the mismatch between student qualifications and market demand. “It is urgently that the education system be revamped,” the NESDB said.

The number of those in the workforce last year remained on a declining trend, at 38.1 million, down from 38.3 million and 38.6 million in 2016 and 2010, respectively. 

The decline in the workforce could lead to a severe labour shortage in the future, the agency warned.

Wages last year dropped 0.1 per cent, to a monthly average of Bt13,721. In contrast labour productivity rose 4.6 per cent from the year before. The government raised the minimum daily wage from Bt300 to between Bt305 and Bt310 last year.

Porametee said that a factor|to monitor this year is how the economic recovery will affect the |market. 

The increased application of artificial intelligence, automation and the Internet of Things would cause jobs losses in some areas, such as in repetitive processes where robots could do better than humans. 

However, the service sector is expected to create more jobs, Porametee said. 

The impact of the rise in the minimum daily wage - to an average of Bt315 from April 1 - would be also monitored, he added. 

 

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