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 the 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 an enormous damage to the local manufacturing sector. In the following year, the national economy recovered again but then shrank after 2012. The year 2015 is finally showing signs of recovery, though.
Currently, 32% of the labor force are working in Thailand’s 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 (56%) of the annual GDP.
Expats are particularly needed to fill specialist positions in Thailand’s industrial sectors. However, with professional experience in certain service industries, you also bring the best qualifications for working in Thailand to the table.
There is a great discrepancy in economic development between rural Thailand and some major cities of this newly industrialized country, especially 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.
However, Thailand’s manufacturing industry or Bangkok’s Central Business District is 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. It 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 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 USA. (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 an assignment to companies from that sector.
If you are a future expatriate interested in working in Thailand, you should be aware, though, 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 good to excellent English skills and some knowledge of Thai.
Also, before you start work, always make sure that you have a signed employment contract and a B visa that includes a work permit. These are basic requirements for living in Thailand and working there legally.
Some foreigners enter the country on a tourist visa, overstay their visa, and start a job in Thailand’s nightlife neighborhoods or red-light districts (quite illegally!). That is why the Thai authorities are not exactly known for their leniency in such matters. If you consider working in Thailand, you should be aware of that.
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