Last Labor Day before AEC has Thais anxious about future income

Friday, 09 May 2014 From Issue Vol. XXII No. 19 By  Urasin Khantaraphan

The last Labor Day before the opening of the ASEAN Economic Community has many Thais anxious about their futures.

Even a year after seeing the minimum wage rise 53 percent, many continue to grumble about low pay. With member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations relaxing immigration and foreign-labor rules in 2015, Thais are wondering how their future income will be affected.

At Muang Pattana Co. Ltd., employees said their pay falls below the 300 baht per day minimum wage the government has set. Accountants Chaporn Saeng-ngam, 23, and Jintana Yordngam, 27, added that they still don’t make enough to support a family.

Construction worker Ngao Song-nga said she is eager for the AEC to open.Construction worker Ngao Song-nga said she is eager for the AEC to open.

For now, Chaiporn said, he’s doing fine, but only because he lives with his parents and is single. If he had a family, he said he wasn’t sure he’d make enough.

Malai Sanath, 32, has been working as a receptionist for 10 years.Malai Sanath, 32, has been working as a receptionist for 10 years.

Jintana is sure, though: She said she has to help support her family and that the increase in food, utilities and transportation since the January 2013 minimum-wage hike is not enough for her.

Both Chaiporn and Jintana, however, said they are willing to accept below the minimum wage as they are happy to have a job, and one that enables them to work at different places on some days.

Malai Sanath, 32, has been working as a receptionist for 10 years. She, too, said her income falls below government standards. She also said she is getting by, happy to have a job, and is free to work at different places to earn some extra money. But she wants the government to adjust the minimum wage in tourist destinations like Pattaya, as living costs are higher here.

Muang Pattana Co. Ltd.’s chief accountant Runghirun Kangvansawan said employees who complain about insufficient incomes should be more diligent with their budgeting. Everyone must show the discipline to stay within their budget, he said.

He noted that the company provides opportunities for both local and international travel to employees with productive work histories. And, he said, the company doesn’t expect any ill effects from the AEC, as it employs no foreigners.

He said the people who will be most affected by the opening of the labor market to foreigners are those Thais who are “picky” about employment, noting that many jobs now would go unfilled if not for foreign labor.

Construction worker Ngao Song-nga from Cambodia has one of those jobs. The 42-year-old said she actually is eager for the AEC to open, as she has many cousins wanting to come work in Thailand, but currently can’t.

Accountants Chaporn Saeng-ngam and Jintana Yordngam said they don’t make enough salary to support a family.Accountants Chaporn Saeng-ngam and Jintana Yordngam said they don’t make enough salary to support a family.

Her job pays 250 baht a day, and two sons with her earn 200 baht a day. That totals a much-greater amount than she can earn back home in Cambodia, so she is happy with her pay and said she actually has cash left over to send home.

Chaiwat Sainuk, the 24-year-old owner of the Panplew liquor store, said the government could do more to help him by allowing him to remain open later, which would increase his sales from tourists out at night. He said the current economic slowdown, inspired by continuing political turmoil, has forced nearly every working person to fight tooth-and-nail to survive.

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