World Bank says migrants boost Thai GDP by 0.75 percent

Without the labor provided by migrant workers Thailand’s gross domestic product would fall by three quarters of a point, according to a report by the World Bank that called for easing of labor restrictions across the entire Southeast Asian region to spur more economic growth.

Thailand and Singapore are the two countries in Southeast Asia that attract the highest numbers of migrant workers. As with most countries that draw large numbers of migrant workers, public opinions about them are varied and at times ambivalent, with many people not realizing the positive contributions migrant workers make to the economy.

In 2014, the government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha launched a program to document and regularize the migrants working in the Kingdom. Some estimates put the number of migrant workers at over 2 million. That program is continuing and the Thai government has been working with the governments of Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos – the main source countries of the migrants – to identify and document their citizens working in Thailand.

Workers who are documented and registered can access legal protections and social services, reducing the chances they will be subject to abuse by unscrupulous employers or officials. In the past two years, Thailand has ratified International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions such as the Maritime Labor Convention, and passed new labor laws to better protect migrant workers and Thailand’s own workers.

The World Bank said that a freer flow of migrant workers would be in the interests of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Economic integration is a key goal of the ASEAN Economic Community, and integration includes the free flow of trade, investment, capital and labor. More than 620 million people live in the ASEAN Economic Community, or AEC.

“Foreign workers can fill labor shortages and promote sustained economic growth, if migration policies are aligned with their economic needs. Inappropriate policies and ineffective institutions mean that the region is missing opportunities to gain fully from migration,” said Sudhir Shetty, World Bank Chief Economist for the East Asia and Pacific region.

New ILO research undertaken in Thailand shows progress – more workers have written contracts in 2017 than a few years ago, and child labor in fishing is rare.”