By Orathai Sriring and Jiraporn Kuhakan
BANGKOK (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of Thais on Saturday flocked to a government-organised job expo with more than a million jobs up for grabs as it works to stem mounting unemployment in an economy battered by the coronavirus pandemic.
Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy could shrink by a record 8.5% this year, with its key tourism sector taking a beating, the government predicts, leaving young and old alike searching for work.
More than 570 booths, from public organisations, private firms and for roles overseas, were set up for job seekers at a “JOB EXPO THAILAND 2020” in Bangkok, which runs until Monday.
“I got laid off,” said 23-year-old Chanissara Prommas. “I used to work for Hong Kong Airlines, but the company couldn’t deal with the cost, so they had to let go some of the staff”.
Teera Magaumpai, 50, who lost his job after 30 years in the tourist sector, said the big crowd reflected huge unemployment and “elders have to fight with first jobbers”.
Some of Thailand’s biggest firms were among those offering jobs, including agribusiness Charoen Pokphand Foods , Telecoms firm True Corp and energy group PTT , which is majority owned by the government.
Although Thailand, which has suffered just 3,522 coronavirus infections, has lifted most restrictions and daily life and work is mostly back to normal, a ban on foreign tourists remains in place, cutting a swathe through a whole sector of career opportunities.
About 1.24 million jobs will be offered – with most in the private sector, and a little over 100,000 in roles overseas. Of that total, the government will help companies pay half in hiring 260,000 new graduates for a year.
“People are the most important part of the country and for moving it forward,” Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said as he opened the event.
The job offer is part of relief measures as the government has introduced a 1.9 trillion baht ($60 billion) package to mitigate the impact of the outbreak.
Supant Mongkolsuthree, chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries, estimated job losses at a record 2.5-3.0 million this year, with more than a million in the tourist sector. Thailand has a workforce of about 38 million.
The government predicts just 6.7 million foreign visitors this year after last year’s record 39.8 million visitors, whose spending made up about 11.4% of GDP.
($1 = 31.62 baht)
(Additional reporting by Satawasin Staporncharnchai; Editing by Alison Williams)