Thailand – Even as Thailand is suffering acute labor shortages, authorities continue to arrest and deport job seekers from Myanmar for entering illegally.
The country, which has one of Southeast Asia’s most robust economies, urgently needs some 800,000 migrant workers in key sectors, according to the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI).
“The industrial sector needs the most migrant workers, with demand now soaring to 500,000,” FTI vice-chairman Kriengkrai Thiennukul said.
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In addition, another 300,000 workers are needed to fill vacancies in the tourism and services sectors, Kriengkrai noted.
“The business sector wants the government to speed up the process of importing migrant workers,” he added.
At the same time, however, Thai authorities have been stepping up border patrols to stop migrant workers from Myanmar entering the country along porous borders.
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Many migrants were detained last month for crossing the border illegally, scores of them over the past weekend alone.
Numerous economically disadvantaged men and women in Myanmar desperate for work in Thailand have been seeking to evade strict Covid-19 border control measures by paying people smugglers between 18,000 baht and 25,000 baht (US$540-750) each to be guided undetected across the border.
Before the pandemic, Thailand officially employed up to 5 million migrant workers from Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia, while many more worked in the country illegally.
However, the pandemic has caused borders to be largely sealed for people seeking to cross into Thailand legally.
To ease the labor shortage while abiding by Covid-19 control measures, the FTI has recommended setting up a scheme whereby newly employed migrants would be vaccinated and quarantined by the businesses that hire them.
There are also fears that migrants might be exploited by their prospective employers in Thailand where several sectors such as food processing and fishing have long been bedeviled by allegations of widespread abuse, including a form of modern-day slavery.
Unscrupulous employers and human traffickers alike have been taking advantage of the financial hardships endured by many people in neighboring countries during the pandemic by promising them well-paying jobs only to entrap them in exploitative arrangements once these workers are in Thailand.