Bt300 wage hike projected to slightly spur growth: Academic

Friday, 06 April 2012 From Issue Vol. XX No. 14 By  MCOT

Implementation of the government’s Bt300 (US$10) national daily minimum wage policy, which took effect Sunday, April 1 in the first seven provinces, is projected to help boost the country’s gross domestic product by 0.5-0.6 percent annually, according to the University of Thai Chamber of Commerce.

Following activation of the new minimum wage, approximately 3.5-5 million laborers will earn more income - about Bt60 per day each, UTCC Economic and Business Forecasting Center director Thanawat Polwichai told a news briefing on Thursday.

Some Bt7-9 billion was expected to be circulated monthly, which will help spur the country’s economic growth by 0.5-0.6 percent.

However, the higher operating costs caused by the wage hike were likely to force entrepreneurs to increase goods prices by 5-10 percent in the second half of the year, Thanawat explained.

Dr Tanawat predicted that numbers of new jobs will be only slightly generated as entrepreneurs use more machines in order to offset the more highly paid labor force. Some industrial companies might relocate their production base in Thailand to low-wage neighboring countries.

An impact of the minimum wage increase on overall employment could be realized in the next three years. Currently, around three million workers are still needed in various sectors, the academic said.

Dr Thanawat cited a recent survey by the centre among 1,237 respondents showing most of those surveyed had more debt owing to the higher cost of living and rising goods prices rather than last year’s flood crisis. About 61 percent said the current cost of living was much higher than their increasing incomes and that ate into their savings.

He also raised concerns that workers earning less than Bt10,000 a month have had problems in repaying debt in the past year. With an average debt of nearly 170,000 baht per household and being obliged to pay monthly installments averaging nearly 11,000 baht - considerably more than their overall incomes.

The higher cost of living will negatively impact consumer confidence and the country’s overall economy thanks to less consumer spending.

Consumer worries about the growing cost of living, if they persist, means that economic recovery will not be possible in the third quarter as earlier expected, the UTCC academic warned.

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