The global recession and downturn in Asia’s regional trade is hitting Thailand’s export driven industries hard. Many of them have large numbers of female workers who are now bearing the brunt of staff and wages cuts.
Oppurtunities for women are rare
At rallies Thai women trade unionists are pressing the government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to support the labour unions and underpin export industries facing tighter credit conditions due to the global recession.
Speakers called for a strengthening of the welfare state, free education, tax reform and cuts in excessive public spending in areas such as the military, together with the promotion of labour politics.
Ms Garn works for a Japanese chemical company and was one of those calling for the government to promote job security and labour reforms. She wants job security to be enhanced.
“The policy must guarantee that they will have jobs – the secured jobs in the future and also real concrete (solutions) not just wordy promises – from the government.”
In Thailand’s export growth driven manufacturing sector many industries employ large numbers of female workers. In many sectors, such as textiles and electronics assembly, women account for as much as 70 per cent of the individual firms’ labour force.
But the global recession has led to sharp contraction in global trade. Thailand’s exports in February fell by 13 per cent, after a 26 per cent slide in January. The global downturn is expected to see the economy contract by almost 2.0 per cent in 2009.
The Thai economic think tank, the National Economic and Social Development Board or NESDB, says Thailand’s unemployment numbers could reach 1.3 million over 2009/2010, sharply higher than the 500,000 out of work total at the end of 2008.
Suluck Lamubol is a representative from the Students Federation of Thailand. She says the government needs to do more to support the unemployed.
“The economic crisis has been affecting the labour, has been affecting the students, has been affecting the office-white collar – the people are not going to be patient considering the situation right now, it’s acute and more acute, it’s really hard for them.“
Rallies for better payments
Mrs. Wonsonaporn works at factory where staff wages and hours have been cut by 25 per cent. She says the main fear is not about being sacked but that the company will not be able meet the workers’ compensation payments later. She called for the government to assist export companies for access to credit to meet overseas orders.
Miss Saifung is a university student attending the rally to support the women’s labour groups. She believes working class women’s salaries are falling behind and called on the government to pay greater heed to the labour unions’ needs.
“Generally for the workers as you can see from this demonstration – I think they should focus more on what the working class or labour unions really need because they are a group of people who are still oppressed by the investor, by the people who are rich.”
The Thai Government appears to have understood the need for action and says it is currently examining policies supportive of women in the workplace as well as reforms to the country’s social security system.