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Higher wages will keep Burmese migrants in Thailand, say researchers

Saturday, 02 February 2013 10:32:05 The Bangkok Post

High wages in Thailand are likely to keep the majority of Burmese migrant workers here over the next three years, a labour researcher says.

Burmese migrants work at a construction project in Phang Nga, Thailand. (Photo: IOM)
Burmese migrants work at a construction project in Phang Nga, Thailand. (Photo: IOM)
While Myanmar [Burma] is currently taking steps toward democratisation and a freer market, finding good jobs there remains difficult, Premjai Wangsiripaisarn of the Asian Research Centre for Migration at Chulalongkorn University's Institute of Asian Studies said.

Most Myanmar migrant workers are able to find work easily here and earn enough so they can send money home, she said.

Foreign remittance payments from Myanmar workers is a big source of revenue for the Myanmar government.

Encouraging its workers to return home would result in large financial losses for the government, she said.

However, she said Thai businesses should look at ways to adjust if fewer workers become available in the future.

Ms Premjai was speaking at a labour seminar held at the institute on Tuesday, January 29.

She was responding to concerns of some business operators that migrant workers will become scarce now that Myanmar is slowly opening its economy.

Ms Premjai said the centre conducted an opinion survey of Myanmar migrant workers between July and August last year and found around 10% of them wanted to return home this year. But most of them said they planned to make only a brief visit before returning to Thailand to work.

Many of the respondents said they had yet to earn enough money to return to Myanmar permanently to take care of their families.

Some workers said they would consider going home permanently if the economy in Myanmar were to create jobs that paid at least two-thirds of the wages in Thailand.

The survey polled 204 legal and illegal Myanmar workers between the ages of 18-35 in Tak, Samut Sakhon and Bangkok—the three provinces with the highest concentrations of Myanmar workers.

Ms Premjai said 30% of the respondents said they earn 10,000 baht or more a month. Forty-six percent said they earn between 5,000-10,000 baht, and 24% said they earn less than 5,000 baht per month.

Earlier this week, Labour Minister Padermchai Sasomsap backed a call by the National Fisheries Association of Thailand to bring in 50,000 Bangladeshi workers for the fishery industry.

The association says the fishery industry is facing a critical labour shortage.

Yongyuth Chalamwong, the director of labour development research at the Thailand Development Research Institute, said the local market will be reliant on migrant labour for at least five more years.

The government should provide healthcare and welfare for the children of migrant workers, he said.

Mr Yongyuth said Myanmar's industries will take 10-15 years to develop to the level where foreign businesses can be certain of adequate legal protection and returns for their investments.


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