Chiang Rai’s Mae Fah Lung University: Labour shortages in Europe are continuing to draw workers from all over the world. In the United Kingdom unemployment is plumbing 40-year lows as the economy struggles to come to terms with the impacts of leaving the European Union, the Covid pandemic, and sustained high inflation.
The country’s government, elected in 2019 atop rising public sentiment against immigration, appears finally to be recognising the need to relax its policies toward foreign workers.
Having effectively shut the door to European migrants in the wake of its acrimonious exit from the European Union, the country has instigated a points-based system which favours younger and well-educated people from anywhere in the world.
The predictable result is that an increasing number of non-EU migrants are being drawn to the UK. For years, fewer than 100,000 non-EU citizens arrived in the UK for work; in 2022 the figure was more than 200,000, and all the dynamics suggest this growth will continue.
Having for years remained below 100,000 annually, the number of non-EU citizens arriving in the UK for work purposes topped 200,000 in 2022 and is continuing its upward trajectory.
Recruiters’ attention is increasingly falling on the younger, English speaking and well-educated populations of South-eastern Asia. The region has traditionally been a large contributor of workers to European markets and data published in May by the Migration Data Portal examined the proportion of female migrants in various South-eastern Asian countries.
Women made up around 50% of South-eastern Asia migrants, above the global average of 48%. But in Thailand, the picture is particularly striking, with over 60% of its migrant population being female. By contrast, in Myanmar only 37% were female.
One sector that has historically attracted many female Thai workers is the spa, massage and hospitality industries, in which qualified workers can earn a multiple of salaries they might expect at home.
Kanjana Sawangha, owner of London-based massage specialists Thai Kosai said “We have sponsored six Thai graduates on work visas so far, including several massage therapists recently graduated from Chiang Rai’s Mae Fah Luang University. We expect to need more unless UK recruitment conditions improve dramatically. ”
Thai Universities’ undergraduate courses in traditional medicine bestow a unique advantage. Its graduates, with a bachelor’s degree and practical massage skills, can qualify for the UK’s skilled worker visa programme as well as help meet demand in the country’s historically under-staffed national health service.
Previously these physical therapy roles were jobs filled by transient part-time student workers, permitted to work only limited hours. But now, overseas massage therapy, physiotherapy, nursing and medicine are increasingly seen by Thai graduates as viable long-term career moves.
Thai authorities will need to pay close attention in the coming years, in case the trickle of emigrating healthcare expertise turns into a flood.