Thailand

The Solidarity Center joins with Thai unions and community groups in pushing for enforcement of international labor standards and national labor law, protecting the rights of migrant workers, preventing human trafficking and achieving legal redress for trafficking victims.

Since 2000, Thailand has made great strides in providing people with better access to fuller social protections, and more than 99 percent of people are covered by health insurance. Between 2000 and 2011, Thailand reduced poverty by more than 75 percent, from 42.3 percent to 10.5 percent, and in 2014, unemployment was 0.6 percent.

But Thailand still has a long way to go to achieve “decent work for all,” especially for the large informal workforce, which makes up more than 60 percent of the Thai workforce, and the millions of migrant workers toiling in the fish processing and construction industries and as domestic workers. Some 26.7 percent of workers have social security protections, but some 24.8 million people—63 percent of the total workforce—working in the informal sector have no such coverage.

Migrant workers in Thailand experience some of worst abuse in the world. Between 2 million and 4 million migrant workers from Burma, Cambodia and Laos toil in Thailand, and reports argue the Thai fishing industry is being built on the slavery of migrant workers. Although the U.S. State Department in 2014 downgraded the country in its annual Trafficking in Persons report because of serious human trafficking problems, Thailand was upgraded in 2016 despite few improvements in the country’s forced labor and human trafficking practices.

Despite provisions in Thailand’s constitution that protect the right to form unions and bargain collectively, the government has failed to adopt International Labor Organization (ILO) Conventions 87 and 98, which cover these rights, and its labor law is not in compliance with ILO core labor standards. Thai labor law prohibits nearly 75 percent of the workforce from freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. As a result, only 1.5 percent of Thailand’s nearly 40 million workers belong to unions.

Under Thai labor law, workers in the private sector have the right to form and join unions. But membership and eligibility restrictions undermine this right. Despite the ban on anti-union discrimination, employers frequently dismiss workers who are trying to form unions, and the courts often take the side of employers.