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Crackdown on foreign workers intensifies amid dire labour shortage in Phuket

Crackdown on foreign workers intensifies amid dire labour shortage in Phuket

BANGKOK: A total of 295 foreign nationals were prosecuted for working illegally in Thailand in the fourth quarter of 2022 exceeding the average number of cases for the previous fiscal year by more than one third. The Minister of Labour encourages further intensification of the crackdown on foreigners “stealing Thai careers”, while businesses struggle to get any working hands to serve the growing tourist arrivals.

By The Phuket News

Saturday 7 January 2023, 10:00AM

Growing numbers of tourists mean Phuket needs growing numbers of people to welcome them and take care of them. But the supply of working hands is yet to meet demand so even a top-level venue at Chalong Pier struggles to find a waitress and a cleaner. Photo: TAC Phuket

Growing numbers of tourists mean Phuket needs growing numbers of people to welcome them and take care of them. But the supply of working hands is yet to meet demand so even a top-level venue at Chalong Pier struggles to find a waitress and a cleaner. Photo: TAC Phuket

The interim results of the campaign against illegal foreign labour were presented by Pairoj Chotikasatien, Director-General of the Department of Employment, at a meeting with Labour Minister Suchart Chomklin yesterday (Jan 6), the Thai Government House reported on its official website. 

At the meeting, Mr Suchart called for Mr Pairoj and other relevant officials to intensify their crackdown on illegal foreign workers following complaints that more foreigners come to work as street hawkers, food vendors, Thai massage practitioners and hairdressers in Bangkok and the surrounding area. 

“The Ministry of Labor would like to remind once again that occupations such selling goods, selling food, Thai massage and hairdressing are strictly forbidden for foreigners to engage into,” said Minister Suchart, calling for officials to create awareness among employers and employees. 

“There are a total of 40 jobs prohibited to foreign workers, divided into two categories: 27 jobs that are strictly prohibited and 13 jobs that are allowed with conditions. Foreigners working without a work permit or working outside of what they are allowed to do are liable to a fine ranging from B5,000 to B50,000 with further deportation. The employers who fail to provide work permits to foreign personnel or who hire foreigners to do work outside of what they are allowed to do, are liable to a fine ranging from B10,000 to B100,000 per worker. Repeated offenses are punishable by imprisonment for not more than 1 year or a fine ranging from B50,000 to B200,000 baht, or both with a ban on hiring foreign workers for three years,” Minister Suchart said. 

These punishments should have been applied to 918 “aliens” who were found breaching the Foreign Labour Act in fiscal year 2022 when the Department of Employment inspected 35,258 employers and workplaces. Further 17,476 places were inspected from Oct 1 through Dec 29 with 295 foreign workers prosecuted for illegal work during the said 90 days, said Mr Pairot. 

295 foreigners prosecuted in 90 days give an average of 3.3 cases per day. The figures for the whole fiscal year 2022 (Oct 1, 2021 – Sept 30, 2022) give only 2.5 cases per day on average.

In dire need for hands

Though not specifically mentioned in the official report about the Jan 6 meeting, Phuket had had its own crackdowns in 2022 in connection with tourism revival. And at the same time kept drawing attention to the worsening labour deficit. 

On Aug 6, a group of disgruntled workers in the local entertainment industry filed an official complaint urging authorities to act on the numbers of illegal workers across the island.

On Sept 7, officials conducted checks on night venues along Bang Rd in Patong “in response to a formal complaint” accusing venue operators of illegally hiring foreign entertainment performers. Yet it was not clearly stated if this was the Aug 6 complaint or a different one. 

The situation might have become even more complicated in October-December amid the deepening workforce crisis in the tourism industry. 

As of Dec 8, more than 17,000 job vacancies in Phuket were waiting to be filled at more than 1,400 businesses on the island, Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew revealed at that time. 

“[Due to recovering tourist arrivals] businesses have increased their employment demands. Many places have labour shortage problems, especially businesses in the hotel, tourism and service sector and other related sectors,” said Governor Narong. 

“According to a survey by the Phuket Provincial Employment Office, it was found that there were 1,423 places of employment in Phuket with 17,173 positions available. This includes the wholesale and retail business sector, followed by food and beverage, service personnel, and spa massage therapists,” he explained.

A comprehensive report by Novosti Phuketa, The Phuket News’ sister newspaper, revealed that by year end Phuket needed not only managers and highly qualified professional (which businesses had been hungry for long ago) but also very basic personnel, literally working hands such as gardeners, cleaners, hotel maids, officiants, golf caddies, kitchen helpers and many more. 

The places looking for these types of personnel were far from third tier employers and included well-known and respected venues ranging from a famous restaurant at Chalong Pier to a luxury resort on Cape Panwa and a golf club in Mai Khao.

Being aware of the current labour shortages and offering solutions such as hiring part-time students and elderly people, the Labour Ministry still encourages people to inform authorities of all the suspected cases of illegal foreign work. 

“Those who see aliens working outside their allowed limits or work illegally, can report to any Provincial Employment Offices, the Bangkok Employment Office for areas 1-10, the Ministry of Labor hotline 1506, or the Department of Employment hotline 1694. Clues can also be sent to the Central Employment Registration and Job Seeker Protection Division by calling 02 354 1729,” the Ministry of Labour reminds.

Last minute mobilisation

In a separate development on the same day (Jan 6) Labor Minister Suchart ordered the Department of Skill Development to speed up upskilling workers in the tourism and service sectors in preparation for resumption of Chinese arrivals, The Phuket News’ sister newspaper Khao Phuket reported citing Thai Government PR Department.

Receiving the instruction from Mr Suchart, Acting Director-General of the Department of Skill Development Buppha Ruangsud listed Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Samui and Pattaya among the places expected to be most popular among visitors from China and thus needing to be prepared in full. This includes having enough qualified personnel in hospitality, food and beverage, entertainment and other relevant spheres.

Therefore Mr Suchart, the Minister of Labour, assigned the Department of Skill Development to accelerate skill development for workers. This applies to both new personnel who need [basic] knowledge and ability to be ready to work as well as existing professionals with potential to increase [the quality and efficiency] of their work. The department has notified all agencies participating in skill acceleration raining in order to prepare hotel and other accommodation businesses, restaurants, entertainment venues, travel and cultural attraction business to welcome tourists,” Ms Buppha said.

Though speaking in detail about Chiang Mai, a specifically popular destination for Chinese, Ms Buppha stressed that training will be organised “in all provinces across all regions of the country”.

The Department of Skill Development and business have already agreed on employers immediately offering contracts to people who have undergone relevant training under Ms Buppha’s department’s programs.

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christysweet | 08 January 2023 - 17:01:55

IMO The REAL objection is  to the stunning Rusia women  working as prostitutes. They certainly will take the Chinese biz and already do the  Russian who I am informed do not adore  Thai women as much as the UK US AUS guys . 

christysweet | 08 January 2023 - 16:05:27

Just look at the expat Facebook groups. Guy today hiring himself out as a traveling barber, not only without a WP but an occupation forbidden to foreigners.  

JohnC | 08 January 2023 - 09:17:24

Foreigner workers (Burmese, Laotians, Cambodians) do all the dirty cheap jobs that most Thais think they are above doing. Without them this country would collapse in to an even bigger dump that it already is. Current minimum wage set by the gov is 354B per day which is a clear case of the Hi-Sos again trying to keep the masses poor and dependent on them so they can use them as slave labour.

Kurt | 07 January 2023 - 19:05:27

Steve Wooly, the poor Myanmar workers, daily load like cattle in trucks, do jobs you not find a unemployed Thai for, besides the fact or the thai has the skills or not, so, exempted from steeling. :-). That's how here rubber laws work. It contents 'turning a blind eye' chapter Imagine not to have the many myanmar workers on Phuket. That would be a disaster for keeping Phuket going.

Steve wooly | 07 January 2023 - 13:23:17

What about the truck loads of Myanmar workers I see every day ? Aren't they foreigners taking work from Thai people? Or doesn't that count

christysweet | 07 January 2023 - 12:49:02

Here's a hint to employers- if you cannot pay a decent living wage, then don't be in business. 


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