Thailand: Drought and disease hurt employment prospects

  • Thailand’s employment market is facing myriad risks, with widespread drought, poor exports, the delay of the 2020 fiscal budget and the highly contagious coronavirus outbreak weighing on jobs.
  • Thosaporn Sirisamphand, secretary-general of the National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC), said the agricultural sector usually helps absorb unemployment, but in 2020 the sector may not offer any assistance because of the widespread drought.
  • “The Thai Meteorological Department stated the drought in 2020 has been the worst in 60 years in terms of water supply from dams and reservoirs as of the end of [Jan 20]. The supply was 18.4 billion cubic metres, which accounted for 25.9% of total water storage capacity. This is the lowest level in four years,” he said.
  • Mr Thosaporn said he expects that “the epidemic will result in lower job creation in [1Q20] and continue until [Apr 20].”
  • Mr Thosaporn said it was still too early to project the unemployment rate for [1Q20] and the whole year [2020], as the agency needs to keep monitoring the effect of the disease.
  • He said employment in the export industry, which is expected to expand by only 1.4% in 2020, could suffer, while the delay in budget disbursement, especially investment funds for new state projects, will cause the overall economy in 2020 to grow more slowly than expected. This will be especially bad news for the construction sector.
  • NESDC reported 37.5 million people were employed in 4Q19, down by 1.1% y/y. This marks the third consecutive quarter of y/y decreases.
  • Employment in the agricultural sector dropped by 1.6%, while employment in non-agricultural sectors decreased by 0.9%.
  • The official unemployment rate was still relatively low at 1.04% of the total workforce or 370,000 people. That was an up 0.93% y/y.
  • In 4Q19, the workforce totalled 38 million, down 1.1% y/y.

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