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Working in Thailand
Find Out How to Get a Job and Work in Thailand
Working in Thailand lets you participate in one of the most dynamic economies in Southeast Asia. Recovering from an economic crisis, Thailand offers many opportunities to expats. InterNations GO! gives an insight into working in Thailand, as well as advice on work permits, business etiquette, and more.
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Employment in Thailand
Thailand: An Economy in Transition
Foreign employees in Thailand participate in Southeast Asia’s most dynamic economy. Unfortunately, in 2009, the country experienced negative growth for the first time in years. The global crisis affected 34 million laborers and employees across all industries. However, the growth rate for 2010 was an impressive 7.6% — a clear sign that the efforts of everyone working in Thailand had borne fruit.
While the economy grew well into 2011, the flooding in southern Thailand disrupted the lives of numerous residents. In October 2011, heavy rainfall and high water destroyed several industrial complexes, causing enormous damage to the local manufacturing sector. In the following year, the national economy recovered again but then shrank after 2012. In 2015, the economy finally showed signs of recovery.
Currently, over 30% of Thailand’s labor force work in the agricultural sector. However, they only contribute 11.6% of the gross domestic product. Almost half of the active population is employed in the service industry, which creates over half of the annual GDP.
Expats are particularly needed to fill specialist positions in Thailand’s industrial sectors. With professional experience in certain service industries, you can bring the best qualifications for working in Thailand to the table.
There is a great discrepancy in the economic development between rural Thailand and the major cities. This is especially true of Bangkok and Pattaya. The populace working in the countryside produces crops like rice, cassava roots, corn, sugarcane, soybeans, and coconuts for subsistence farming and the international market.
Thailand’s manufacturing industry and Bangkok’s Central Business District are far more lucrative. Most expats work in the service sector clustered in Bangkok’s more central khet (districts), especially in the Central Business District. The latter is home to the Stock Exchange of Thailand, which is of great importance to the entire Southeast Asian Market. Bangkok’s CBD also houses the regional branches of international banks (e.g. Barclays, Crédit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, HSBC) and numerous companies from the tourist or transport industries (especially airlines).
The Eastern Seaboard Zone
The Eastern Seaboard Zone near Pattaya and some southern and western parts of the Bangkok Metropolitan Area house Thailand’s export-oriented production plants. They manufacture textiles, automobile parts, processed rubber, and plastics, as well as electronics and PC parts for export to China, Japan, and the US. (In fact, the 2011 floods caused a global shortage in hard-disk drives that lasted well into 2012.) Expatriate employees with industrial expertise might be sent on assignment to companies in this sector.
If you are a future expatriate interested in working in Thailand, you should be aware that there are certain restrictions on foreign workers and employees. According to the Foreign Business Act, aliens should not be working in Thailand’s construction sector, in retail, as office assistants, and in many other fields of employment.
Therefore your best opportunities for working in Thailand are qualified positions in the following fields: ICT, the petrochemical industry, medical technology, manufacturing, and engineering, or in finance and trade. The hospitality industry is another lucrative sector if you have sufficient English skills and some knowledge of Thai.
Expats should also be aware that it is a law that Thai companies employ at least 50 Thai nationals for every one foreign employee, up to a total of five foreign employees. In certain sectors, this can sometimes make getting a full-time job difficult, but not impossible.
Work Visas for Thailand
Before you start work, make sure that you have a signed employment contract and a B visa that includes a work permit. These are basic requirements for living and working in Thailand legally. Working without a permit will lead to jail time and deportation from the country.
Moving to Thailand, over-staying a visa, and working illegally has become so common among expats—especially the young, backpacking ones—that Thai authorities are starting to crack down with permit raids. It is not unheard of for Thai police to go to a workplace and demand to see everyone’s work permits. In Bangkok, police have even done checks at places that are popular with foreigners such as night markets.
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Doing Business in Thailand
Foreigners who do not want to work for a company in Thailand, but would rather like to invest in business or even open one, should also be aware of various restrictions. Therefore, always remember to ask for detailed legal advice before working in Thailand, even as a self-employed person or entrepreneur.
Furthermore, never think about setting up a “shell company” just to obtain a long-term visa or to circumvent the restrictions on foreigners buying property and land in Thailand. Just like foreign residents working without a proper permit, this is anything but a laughing matter for Thai law enforcement.
Opening Your Own Business in Thailand
Many foreign residents who do decide to open their own small business in Thailand choose the legal structure of a Private Limited Company. For this purpose, they have to fulfill the following requirements:
- The company needs at least three shareholders or ”promoters.” They do not all have to be Thai citizens, but more than 50% of the company shares need to be in Thai hands if you want to be exempt from the Foreign Business Act and its restrictions. For example, a PLC whose shareholders are mostly Thai would be able to buy and sell property, even if a foreign national holds part of the shares.
- Once you start employing staff, you need a capital of 2,000,000 THB for every foreign work permit you would like to apply for (65,700 USD). For every million of initial capital, you pay a registration fee of 5,000 THB (160 USD).
- You need to draw up articles of incorporation and articles of association in accordance with Thai business law. You must also hold an official inaugural meeting with all your shareholders.
- Moreover, you have to register for tax purposes within 30 days of founding the company and apply for a tax number.
- You have to do proper accounting according to Thai law (civil code, code of commerce, fiscal law, etc.) and withhold income tax from the employees’ salaries. Handing in an annual balance sheet at the Thai tax office is an absolute must as well.
Obtaining Professional Advice on Business Matters
If you plan on starting your own business in Thailand, getting input and support from an experienced lawyer and/or tax advisor is strongly recommended. Do make sure you have skilled, knowledgeable, and trustworthy persons to advise you on legal and financial matters.
If you need more information about the Thai market, reliable data on foreign trade, recommendations of experienced lawyers, etc. do not hesitate to contact your country’s chamber of commerce in Bangkok, or the experts at InterNations GO! for help.
Expat Business Info Thailand
How Your Chamber of Commerce Can Help You
If you would like to work in Thailand without the prospect of a traditional inter-company transfer, there are several ways to go about finding a job.
First of all, your home country’s chamber of commerce is a good place to start. Some chambers of commerce have online job markets where member companies advertise vacancies or where you can upload your own CV. If they do not have a job market on their website, they may often have one in a monthly, bi-monthly, or quarterly publication.
Furthermore, a chamber of commerce also tends to offer business workshops or seminars where you can brush up your qualifications and meet contacts from the Southeast Asian market. These can include lectures on intercultural communications, business visa information luncheons, updates on Thai tax law, etc.
Do It Online!
If you do not find an opening for the job of your dreams via a chamber of commerce, you can also fall back on other resources:
- Check the online job markets of Thailand’s English-language papers, such as the Bangkok Post.
- Explore the vacancies on commercial job websites such as Monster Thailand.
- Those looking for teaching opportunities should go to ajarn.com.
In addition to your professional expertise, work experience, and fluent English skills, some smattering of Thai, and intercultural experience (especially in regards to Southeast Asia) are huge bonuses when you look for work in Thailand.
Impressing Your Future Employer
Since personal contacts and relationships are essential in Thailand’s business world, you should phone the company directly and find out who exactly will be handling your application. If you call them to politely express your interest and ask a few systematic questions about the vacant position, you may leave a good impression.
It is also important to get the pronunciation of your Thai contact’s name right and ask them for the correct spelling. If you forget or ignore that, you might be labeled as an ignorant or arrogant foreigner. Paying attention to such details is essential in developing intercultural sensitivity. Keep in mind that many Thais may prefer to go by a nickname such as Oak, Apple, or Book.
Once you have succeeded in your job search, you will need a non-immigrant visa from the category B (business & employment). Have a look at our article on moving to Thailand for more information. Please note, though, that there are different regulations for EFL teachers applying for a B visa. If you are interested in teaching English in Thailand, contact the nearest Thai Embassy or Consulate for further visa information.
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