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Eastern Seaboard needs skilled labour

There is a dearth of skilled labour in the eastern seaboard, the centre of export-oriented industries, despite a climb in the country?s overall unemployment rate.

According to the latest survey by the Eastern Institute of Vocational Education (EIVE), several factories in the area are in dire need of skilled labour.

The eastern seaboard — comprising Chon Buri, Chachoengsao, Samut Prakan and Rayong — is an emerging region and plays a key role in the economy. High-value goods such as Japanese automobiles, which are manufactured there and shipped to other ports, are among the many exports.

The region is home to several large industrial estates. Other than its manufacturing and shipping industries, it also has a diverse service sector consisting of tourism, construction and retail industries. Pattaya, a major tourist destination, is located here and second only to Bangkok for the number of high-rise buildings. The region is also home to many foreign retirees.

EIVE chairman Prempracha Supasamut said the institute, which covers nine vocational colleges, turns out about 1,000 graduates a year, but demand from factories in the region is four times higher.

EIVE has deals with various companies to supply them with human resources. Despite the economic slowdown, and some plants cutting production, most factories still call for workers supplied by the institute.

Mr Prempracha expects the shortage of skilled labour to become worse, particularly after the 2-trillion-baht infrastructure development plan was frozen by the Constitutional Court, while the political turmoil shows little sign of abating.

According to a Labour Ministry report, the unemployment rate stood at 0.9% of the total workforce in the first three months of this year, up from 0.7% in the same period last year.

The Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI) recently warned that the jobless rate may rise to 1% if the political turmoil drags on.

The impact will be seen more clearly in the second half of the year as investors delay their decisions or even relocate elsewhere, said TDRI research director Yongyuth Chalamwong.

Tanit Sorat, vice-chairman of the macroeconomic, finance and fiscal team at the National Economic and Social Advisory Council, said unemployment may rise to 1.2%-1.3% of the total workforce this year, higher than the previous 1% projection, as the political impasse continues to take a toll on the industrial sector.

Thailand has between 38.43 million and 39.1 million people in the workforce.

Unemployment averaged 0.7% in 2013.

Mr Tanit said the situation does not bode well for 400,000 fresh graduates.