Poor English skills threaten Thai competitiveness, employment

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Thai companies need to quickly upgrade the English-language skills of their workforce or face widespread job losses when it takes effect in 2015, Chonburi’s deputy governor warned Pattaya business leaders.

“It is a troublesome issue,” Pongsak Preechawit said of the country’s generally poor English proficiency. “Language is vital. It’s is necessary that the labor force start learning and understanding the importance of the universal language: English.”

Chonburi Deputy Mayor Pongsak Preechawit. Chonburi Deputy Mayor Pongsak Preechawit.

Speaking at the Pattaya Business & Tourism Association’s April 11 meeting, the deputy governor said information he has received from ASEAN and foreign companies in Thailand is not good. For example, Pongsak said, at Sumitomo Corp.’s Thailand subsidiary, 86 of the 100 Thai engineers employed by the Japanese company cannot understand English.

“Thailand’s entrance into the ASEAN Economic Community is worrisome due to the freedom of movement labor in seven industries will have,” Pongsak told the business leaders. “The tourism sector needs to bring its labor force’s skills and knowledge in line with other ASEAN countries to prevent Thai workers from being replaced by foreign labor.”

Noting that Chonburi has seven industrial parks – comprised in large part by foreign-owned companies – Pongsak said that, “Thailand will certainly face troubles in labor replacement … if workers cannot communicate in other languages for entrance into the AEC in 2015.”