ECLM Project

How Immigrants Contribute to Thailand's Economy

A joint report by the OECD Development Centre and the International Labour Organisation (ILO), How Immigrants contribute to Thailand’s economy, demonstrates the economic contribution of these immigrants and makes recommendations regarding the enhancement of this contribution.

In recent decades, Thailand has been an attractive destination for migrant workers due to its relatively high wages and fast economic growth. A joint report by the OECD Development Centre and the International Labour Organization (ILO), “How Immigrants contribute to Thailand’s economy”, demonstrates migrant workers contribution and makes recommendations to enhance this contribution.

Thailand has a long history of immigration and became a net immigration country in the early 1990s. Over the period from 2000 to 2010, the foreign-born population increased by a factor of ten from 263 000 to 2.5 million people. The analysis looks at two dimensions of immigrant workers’ contribution: labour markets and economic growth, showing that the foreign-born labour force has raised the paid employment rate of the native-born population as well as their income per capita.

According to the report, the positive contribution of immigrants to the Thai economy could be further enhanced by improving existing policies based on the following recommendations:

• Channels for regular immigration could be made more accessible and integration mechanisms further developed. Considering immigration in different sectoral policies, in particular labour market, education, investment and tax policies, could enhance immigrants’ contribution.
• The gaps between the skills of immigrant workers and those needed by employers should be better monitored. Such gaps can be reduced by promoting the diversity of jobs occupied by foreign-born labour, notably through technical and vocational training.
• Raise awareness of immigrants’ rights through information campaigns, and monitor labour standards to reduce gaps between native-born and foreign-born workers.
• Ensure regular and comprehensive data collection and analysis to help better inform policy makers of immigration’s impact on the Thai economy. For example, there is a need to include data on nationality and place of birth in national surveys.