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Report says Thailand’s COVID-19 labor migration may spur economic growth

ASEAN Today, Thailand, 30 April 2021 - As Thailand faces the economic impacts of a third wave of COVID-19, the country’s central bank says that major shifts in labor migration during the pandemic may create long-term benefits.

According to the Bank of Thailand’s new report, waves of domestic migration due to COVID-19 may create an opportunity for new economic growth in regions that have seen relatively little development.

During the country’s initial shutdown last spring, around 2 million people left Bangkok to return to their hometowns, many of them bringing expertise and technology that are sometimes scarce in more remote regions of the country. This influx of workers with diversified experience and knowledge could help modernize Thailand’s agricultural sector and also develop agricultural and health tourism.

In 2020, Thailand’s GDP shrunk by 6.1%, due in part to a lack of tourists in the country and also to a drop in exports. The country’s economic crisis led to a spike in unemployment; many migrant workers and other low-wage workers in the capital were left without jobs and forced to return home.

“This is a rare opportunity for such a big migration of modern workers, who have knowledge and technology, to return to their hometowns,” wrote Bank of Thailand economist Saovanee Chantapong and Warit Tassanasunthornwong from Thammasat University in the new report.

The potential diversification and modernization could make Thailand’s economy more resilient to shocks like pandemics or other crises. It could also help create a more equal distribution of economic innovation around the country.

The positive spin on massive unemployment stands in stark contrast to Thailand’s treatment of foreign migrant workers during the pandemic. The country has relied in recent years on a workforce of at least 4-5 million migrants from Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and elsewhere.



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