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Does Thailand Have a Workforce 4.0 to Meet Long-Term Economic Ambitions?


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Fri, 21 Sep. 2018
    Oxford Business Group

Author: Patrick Cooke
23rd August 2018
Asia Regional Editor
Publisher: Oxford Business Group

From the overthrow of an elected government to the death of a beloved king, Thailand has undergone serious upheaval in recent years. The state of flux in politics and society has been mirrored in the wider economy, with several years of weak consumption, falling foreign direct investment (FDI) and sluggish growth in comparison to the other emerging markets in ASEAN.

Out of the turmoil, the military-led government has managed to fashion a coherent, long-term vision for the country, designed to escape the middle-income trap and overcome demographic challenges. Dubbed Thailand 4.0, the blueprint aims to establish a viable ecosystem for the development of advanced manufacturing and high-tech services. It is supported by the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), a plan to upgrade the existing manufacturing heartland into a hub for the emerging industries of the future.

While such long-term planning is to be applauded, especially when considering that most other ASEAN states have been slow to adapt to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, it will take more than investment in hard infrastructure and new manufacturing facilities to make it a success. A recurring theme that emerged from Oxford Business Group’s on-the-ground research over the past 12 months has been the urgent need for Thailand to invest in education and skills development to ensure its workforce is equipped for the demands of a rapidly evolving economy.

In recognition of these concerns, we asked CEOs who participated in our second business barometer on Thailand to pinpoint which skills were in greatest need in the domestic labour market. There was a wide dispersion of responses, with 19% choosing engineering, 18% leadership, 16% research and development (R&D), and 13% computer technology. Looking closely at the chosen skills, we observe that they are all vital to the realisation of Thailand 4.0, indicating that significant gaps need to be filled in the workforce if the transition to a high-income, value-based economy is to be successful.

On a more positive note, 66% of respondents described their level of satisfaction with local suppliers and service providers as high or very high, demonstrating the existence of effective supply chains that should provide strong foundations for the development of advanced industries.

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