By Kornrawee Panyasuppakun
Many Thai parents have to send their children to be raised by grandparents upcountry while they toil in the city, said Sunee Chairos, an academic at Rangsit University, during the forum which was organised by the Foreign Ministry and UNICEF Thailand.
She said that to help ease their burden, the government must step in to help, by first tailoring state-run daycare centres to the needs of working parents.
The centres must deliver high quality daycare services to kids and also must be sufficient in numbers, charge a reasonable price, and be in harmony with parents’ working hours, she said.
While parents need to head to work early and often leave work late, daycare facilities must change their hours to match that schedule, she said, adding that state-owned preschool facilities currently open very late and close very early.
She also urged the government to accept younger children to centres, accepting babies as young as three months old, not just start accepting when they are about three years old.
She said the government needs to invest more money in daycare. As early years are of prime importance to the development of a child, she urged the government to extend the Bt600 monthly Child Support Grant, which is currently limited to impoverished families with children up to three years old.
The government should give the grant until the toddlers reach six years old, she said, and it should also be given to all families regardless of their income.
The private sector also needs to play a part in helping employees. Sansiri PLC, for example, has a breastfeeding room in some of its offices, said the company's deputy executive vice president Sirindha Mongkolnavin
“We also allow employees to take maternity leave longer than the law requires and also allow them work flexible hours or work remotely from home to spend time with their young children,” said Sirindha.
She added that as technology will continue to disrupt jobs, Thailand needs to do more to prepare its human capital. All sectors must come together to equip the younger generation with creative, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration skills that are highly valued in the business world, she said.