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Govt urged to extend deadline for alien workers

Dec 14. 2012
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By The Nation

Chamber of commerce warns exports will be hit due to labour shortage

If the deadline for verification of alien workers’ nationality is not extended from today, several labour-intensive industries in Thailand such as fisheries or construction are likely to be hurt. 

In the face of severe labour shortages at home, these industries have long relied heavily on alien workers. 
The Thai Chamber of Commerce yesterday called on the authorities to extend the deadline for nationality verification. 
“Otherwise, the country’s export and economic growth will be adversely affected,” chamber vice president Phumin Harinsut said. Fisheries and related industries generate Bt150 billion income from exports each year. 
The government has yet to respond to the chamber’s request. Initially, authorities had planned to deport all registered workers whose nationality had not been verified by the deadline, today, along with unregistered workers whose number is estimated at between 500,000 and 800,000.
According to the Employment Department, as many as 356,351 alien workers have registered themselves – but their nationality verification was still pending as of November 23. Only 530,156 have already had their nationality verified. 
Myanmar people are the biggest group of alien workers in Thailand. More than 565,000 have registered with Thai authorities. Also registered are 222,430 Cambodians and 99,019 Laotians.
“Thai workers don’t want to work in the food and fishery sectors because they are wet and smelly places. Employers in the sectors thus need alien workers,” TCC executive Poj Aramwatthananont explained. 
He said the food/fishery manufacturing sector could falter if authorities were to force out so many alien workers when employers could not find replacements. 
“Manufacturing will be disrupted and customers won’t get delivery of their products as scheduled. That will hurt not just entrepreneurs but also the country’s economy as a whole,” he said.
He said disruption of manufacturing in the food industry would deal a big blow to the country’s agricultural sector, too, as factories would refuse to buy fresh crops during the harvest season. 
Atip Bijanonda, who sits on the chamber board, said Thai construction firms also needed alien workers to push their business ahead. 
“If a [large] number of alien workers suddenly disappears from the market, many major constructors will very likely refuse to take on more projects next year because they would be concerned about the risk of not being able to submit construction work on time,” he said. 
Phumin said the government should extend the deadline for nationality verification. 
He also suggested the government allow the registration of more alien workers. He added that a joint panel with representatives from both the government and private sectors should be set up to find sustainable solutions to the country’s labour shortage.
Phumin said if the government did not prepare good measures and still insisted on deporting hundreds of thousands of alien workers, the goal of raising the country’s export growth by five per cent next year would be far-fetched.

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