Employment and Wages
The average annual rate of employment growth in the 1970s was
2.7 percent, compared with 2.9 percent in labor force growth
caused by rapid population growth in the 1950s and 1960s. As a
result, unemployment reached 1.7 million in 1985, which
corresponded to an unemployment rate of around 6.3 percent.
Agriculture was the major employer with about 69 percent of total
employment in the mid-1980s, a decline from 84 percent in 1960.
Between 1970 and 1983 manufacturing increased its share of the
total employed labor force from 4.1 percent to 7.4 percent.
Commerce increased from 1.6 percent to 8.7 percent, and services
from 7 percent to 10 percent during the same period.
The work force had gone through some structural changes in
terms of age and sex. The fastest growing age-group in the 1960s
was eleven- to fourteen-year-olds. In the 1980s, that age-group
dropped as a result of a falling birth rate in the early 1970s
and increasing primary and secondary school enrollment. By the
mid-1980s, the fastest growing group in the work force was aged
between twenty and thirty, with increasing participation by
females. The proportion of women employed went from 66 percent in
1971 to around 70 percent by the mid-1980s. Female employment was
highest in commerce with 54 percent in 1979, followed by 50
percent in agriculture, 43 percent in industries, and 36 percent
In terms of regional distribution, the North had the lowest
rate of labor force growth, with 3 percent between 1971 and 1985,
followed by the Northeast, with 3.3 percent as a result of
limited job opportunities and migration. Bangkok had the highest
labor force growth with 6.9 percent. Regional growth of the labor
force depended partly on the level of education. An increasing
(although still small) number of new entrants in the work force
had received a higher education. In 1971 the percentage of the
total labor force that had an elementary education was 90.2. This
figure declined to 72.6 percent in 1985. For people with lower
and upper secondary education, the share went from 4.8 percent to
10.4 percent during the same period. The percentage of the labor
force with vocational training jumped from 1.9 percent to 10.4
percent between 1971 and 1985. Yet unemployment in Thailand for
those with a college or vocational education rose from 8.4 to 9
percent by the mid-1980s, mostly because of an average increase
of 13.7 percent per year in the educated work force between 1977
The real wage rate between 1978 and 1985 remained the same
for most of the country, but in some regions, such as the North,
it dropped from B1.81 per hour to B1.66 (for value of the
baht--B--see Glossary). Only in Bangkok did wages increase--from B3.64
to B4.20--during the period.
Real wages were stagnant because minimum wage adjustments
were not always closely linked to inflation rates, and compliance
with the minimum wage laws was not observed by the various
sectors of the economy and regions of the country. Minimum wage
laws were first introduced in April 1973 after the legalization
of unions in 1972. At the outset, the laws covered only Bangkok.
They were subsequently applied to the entire country, which was
divided into three regions with three different scales for
various types of activities; agriculture and government
administration were exempted. By 1982 minimum wages in Bangkok
had been raised by 100 percent; those in other regions had been
raised by 50 to 70 percent.
Data as of September 1987