EMPLOYMENT in the non-farm sector has seen a decline while household debts are on a rising trend against a backdrop of continued economic growth, the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) said yesterday.
Employment in the non-farm sector dropped 2.8 per cent in the first quarter of 2018 despite economic growth reaching 4.8 per cent, according to the Social Situation and Outlook report released yesterday by the NESDB.
Total employment stood at 38.1 million, a 0.2-per-cent decrease year on year. The country’s unemployment rate remained low at 1.2 per cent, the state think-tank reported.
“The decline of employment in the retail and wholesale and construction sectors was due to businesses introducing new technologies and automation in their production and services,” Chutinart Wongsuban, the deputy secretary-general of the NESDB, said. It may take time before labour adjusts itself, she said. Moreover, the labour market has fully benefited from the economic recovery, she added.
According to the report, the largest drop – 11.8 per cent year on year – was in the construction industry, followed by a 5.1-per-cent drop in education and 3.2 per cent drop in logistics. The wholesale and retail sales sectors also faced a 2.8-per-cent drop, hotels and restaurant services experienced a drop of 1.3 per cent while other sectors had a combined drop of 2.3 per cent.
The farm sector employed 11.7 million, a rise of 6 per cent, due to an expansion of farm output driven by favourable weather. However, the prices of many farm products such as rubber sheet and palm oil remained low and contributed to the declining income of farmers.
The average price of farm products decreased by 12.3 per cent year on year in the first quarter, following the declining trend of 2.2 per cent, 12.9 per cent and 6 per cent in the second, third and fourth quarters last year respectively. This led to 4.8-per-cent drop in the incomes of farmers.
The average income of labourers, however, increased by 2.3 per cent year on year and labour productivity rose 5.1 per cent.
An increase in daily minimum wage of between Bt308-Bt330 became effective on April 1. Authorities have been monitoring whether employers have raised the wages of labourers, said Chutinart.
From the survey of the labour market between April and May, authorities found that 188 manufacturers – estimated to be 4.4 per cent of factories surveyed – did not raise wages. And 1,327 workers or 1 per cent of total workers surveyed had not received the minimum wage.
The NESDB also worried about the rising household debt as indicated by the rising consumer loans. Personal loans increased 7.1 per cent year on year in the first quarter of this year. Car loans, in particular, were up 10.6 per cent year on year.
This is in line with household debt in the fourth quarter of last year as 10.8 million out of 21 million families had debt. For those families owing debts, each had an average debt of Bt178,994 up from Bt156,770 in 2015.
The total household debt in the fourth quarter amounted to Bt11.98 trillion, up 4.3 per cent, or equivalent to 77.54 per cent of GDP. “Household debt as key indicators have to be monitored closely,” added Chutinart.