Phuket Provincial Employment Office Chief Santi Nantasuwan confirmed to The Phuket News yesterday (July 14) that the unemployment rate on the island is the highest on record, with just 276 job vacancies registered with the government agency, compared with 6,316 people registered with the office as unemployed.
“This is the worst time for the people of Phuket, there are not enough jobs available for the number of people seeking work,” Chief Santi said.
Chief Santi estimated that Phuket’s jobless totalled some 10,000, “including those who have not registered with us that they are unemployed.”
Pointing out that more than 30,000 Thais have already left Phuket in order to return to their home provinces, Mr Santi said that the number of jobs on the island lost to the COVID-19 fallout would easily be much higher.
“As many people have now returned to their home provinces, it is hard to give a clear number of the total number of people in Phuket left unemployed by the current situation,” he added.
The jobs that are still available are mostly menial, Mr Santi noted, but he urged people to take up any work they can, even if in neighbouring provinces.
“I want unemployed people to take jobs that are different from their previous experience and location. They can work in nearby provinces, such as Phang Nga and Krabi. Also, colleges have opened skills-training courses so that people can train now and apply for better jobs later,” he said.
The PPEO will hold a job fair at the Baan & Beyond centre on the bypass road on Aug 20, he added.
“More than 30 companies have notified us that they have job vacancies on offer,” Mr Santi said.
“Most of the jobs that the employers say they need the most are purchasing officers and stock handlers, as well as positions in product sales, product labour staff, retail staff and managers,” he added.
The unemployment rate skyrocketing comes as 107 companies and limited partnerships on the island have asked to be struck off since January, totalling more than B237 million in registered capital being written off, the Phuket office of the Department of Business Development under the Ministry of Commerce confirmed this week.
It also comes as pubs, bars and other entertainment businesses on Bangla Rd in Patong start closing their doors again after a hopeful reopening on July 1 to see if resuming business was viable.
One bar owner told The Phuket News that many operators were hopeful to generate some income, even if just to keep people employed, but that without tourists even that small goal was impossible.
Phuket Chamber of Commerce (PCC) President Thanusak Phungdet this week expressed his grave concerns for the fallout to come from the spiralling unemployment rate.
“Crime and suicide rates will rise,” he told The Phuket News.
Mr Thanusak confirmed that he had received no response to his plea for the government to extend its social security payments for people in Phuket for another three months – a formal request he submitted more than a month ago.
The first three months of social security payments made available to people left without work due to the current situation ended on June 30.
At that time, estimates indicated that the fallout from the COVID-19 crisis may end up costing Phuket more than B280 billion in lost revenues. That figure has yet to be revised.
“There has been no feedback from the government yet,” Mr Thanusak said.
“This is very important for people who live and work in Phuket. The impact is not just on businesses, but on the ‘grassroots’ people, the ordinary people and employees.
“The grassroots of the economy will die because they have no form of income, and in Phuket these people used to work in the tourism industry. Tourists provided their income, but now we have no tourists coming to Phuket,” he added, ensuring to re-use the term “grassroots”, the same term the central government is using in its promotional campaign to explain to the public which section of society they are helping to get through the crisis.
Phuket was unlike any other province in the country, in that its dependence on international tourists made it much more vulnerable to suffering than other tourism destinations in Thailand, Mr Thanusak pointed out.
“Phuket is not not like any other province. Other provinces have other industries to help generate income for the province, such as agriculture and industrial manufacture,” he said.
“Phuket does not have this. We have relied on tourists, and not just tourists in general, but international tourists. Over the years the number of Thai tourists has had relatively very little impact on our tourism industry,” he said.
“This is the reason why the government must think about Phuket province differently. Phuket made its income from foreign tourists, not Thai tourists. Phuket is even different from Pattaya, where there are usually crowds of Thai tourists,” he said.
Even the push to boost domestic tourism was not likely to work for Phuket as it is expected to help the likes of Pattaya, he added.
“Phuket is not like Pattaya. They have different domestic tourist markets to appeal to. When it comes to having cheap holidays, Thais do not travel far from their home provinces. Pattaya is close to Bangkok and people from Isan [Northeast Thailand] generally travel to visit the Eastern seaboard – not Phuket,” he said.
“From the situation right now, people still need more support from the government. At least, some support from SSO [Social Security Office] so they can at least have money to buy food,” Mr Thanusak said.
“If not, Phuket will face rising crime and suicides,” he said bleakly.
Further, the ongoing lack of employment opportunities will create a skill drain, as trained workers leave the island to find employment elsewhere, he added.
“Skilled workers will move out from Phuket province, and it will be much harder to get them back when the tourists return. Phuket will not have enough skilled employees to work in hospitality and tourism businesses,” Mr Thanuask explained.
“Next, I will push this issue with the Phuket Governor to follow up with the government this week,” he said.