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Shocking Wage Debate Sweeps Thailand – Could 492 Baht Change Lives Forever?

Under the Thai skies in 2022, construction workers are at the forefront of progress, busily assembling an overpass at Na Ranong Intersection. Paid by daily wage, these hardworking individuals are the driving force of our infrastructure (Photo Credit: Pornprom Satrabhaya).

Recently, a steadfast call for a flat-rate minimum wage of 492 Baht spanning the length and breadth of the country has been reiterated by a representative of the labor collective. According to Chalee Loysoong, an adviser to the Thai Labour Solidarity Committee (TLSC), this proposal is far more sustainable and would result in a more significant economic uplift compared to the 10,000 Baht one-time cash infusion offered by the government. Thanks to the multiplier effect, a wage augmentation could make a world of difference.

Chalee argues that such an initiative would not drive businesses away, given the country’s business-friendly environment. This demand for a unified flat wage is stemmed from the fact that commodity prices are uniform throughout the country. “No matter where one resides, prices remain consistent. People in the countryside aren’t necessarily buying cheaper goods. So, it’s critical to raise purchasing power nationwide,” opines Chalee.

Meanwhile, Chalee urged the labour minister to refrain from meddling in the tripartite wage committee’s tasks. This panel educatedly reviews wages incorporating representatives from the state, employees, and employers alike.

Adding to the dialogue, Atthayuth Leeyawanich, chairman of the Employers Confederation of Consumer Goods and Services, emphasized the need to evaluate certain factors like economic growth and inflation when reconsidering minimum wage. Currently, the 400-baht rate seems steep for many employers. Hence, Leeyawanich calls upon the government to introduce more measures to stimulate the economy.

Atthayuth mirrored Chalee’s advice, persuading the government not to sway the wage committee’s judgement. After regional committees present their reports, the committee arrives at a final decision. This proposed wage is subsequently submitted to the labour minister and the cabinet for approval. “We should leave it to the apt committee to finalize the new wage,” says Atthayuth.

In a significant move in October last year, daily wages were hiked across all 77 provinces to 328-354 baht. Despite the plea for a 492 baht flat rate, the average daily minimum wage stands at 337 baht. This marked a 5.02% average increase following a two-year freeze. Will the call for a unified 492 baht make waves in the Thai economy? Only time will tell.

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