New labor law planned to protect vulnerable workers

In its continuing drive to improve labor rights, Thailand’s cabinet gave the go-ahead last week to begin drafting a law to protect the Kingdom’s more than 19 million informal workers – taxi drivers, street vendors, fishermen and others – and bring them into the social security system.

This would be Thailand’s first law that would protect informal workers and give them access to basic rights, occupational safety, and fair employment.

The current government has come to recognize the need for such a law in part because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Thailand Country Office of the United Nations said last year that informal workers were the part of the labor force most affected by the pandemic. The government has also faced pleas from entertainment workers and others whose jobs have been lost because of pandemic restrictions but are not eligible for some social safety net benefits.

Thailand has a relatively strong social safety net compared to many middle-income developing nations. But the Kingdom still has a large segment of workers in the informal economy, which has placed these workers outside the social safety net.

Developing nations typically have large informal economies.

The Ministry of Labor has said that 19 million workers, or 52 percent of the Kingdom’s total workforce, are in the informal economy. Thailand’s definition of an informal worker is a person above the age of 15 who does not come under the jurisdiction of labor law and is not insured under the Social Security Act.