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Thailand’s Covid Restrictions Leave 700,000 Migrant Workers Jobless

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The Migrant Working Group (MWG) has reported hardships facing an estimated 700,000 migrant workers who have lost their jobs during the Covid-19 crisis in Thailand.

Government restrictions had seen borders close and many migrant-employing businesses collapse, MWG representative Adisorn Kerdmongkol told a Asia One, marking International Migrants Day on Wednesday (Dec 16).

Many migrant workers had been laid off, some without compensation from either their employer or the Social Security Fund, he said. Accessing state aid was difficult or impossible for these people.

Meanwhile many laid off migrant workers are unable to find new employers within the 30-day deadline since the law requires proof that their contract was terminated by the original employer.

Also, said Adisorn, the government still lacks clarity on managing migrant workers waiting to enter Thailand to support the economic recovery after restrictions were eased.

More than 100,000 migrant workers are currently waiting to enter the country, 69,235 with work permits and visas and 42,168 registered with Thai businesses.

“Most migrant workers who have applied under the MoU system have already borrowed money to travel to Thailand. Unable to travel to work, their debt burdens is are rising,” he said.

The lack of clear and safe guidelines for importing workers was also causing labour shortage problems, he added.

“As a result, the number of migrant workers being smuggled into Thailand is rising.”

Migrants Health Insurance Expires

Meanwhile 632,833 migrant workers have fallen out of the health system, according to MWG health expert Chuwong Saenkong.

Workers whose health insurance expires during the Covid-19 situation can’t renew their policies due to difficulties in travelling to complete the process.

Education of migrant children has also suffered during the pandemic. According to a 2018 estimate, there are 300,000 migrant children in Thailand.

Only 97,145 are in state schools while most study in migrant learning centres with no legal status.

Siwawong Suktawee, a consultant for the Foundation for Rural Youth (FRY), said the learning centres can be forced to close at any time. “How to make learning centres a sustainable and alternative solution is an important question,” he emphasised.

Also, many foreign students who return home during the holidays are unable to return because they cannot afford quarantine and travel costs. Others who remain in Thailand cannot go to schools as their parents’ financial status is affected. “Without government support, these students may have to quit schools and end up becoming child workers,” he said.

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