Children are our future thinks the AEC
Two interesting events not directly connected with each other showed that Thailand is coming to grips, as well as gripes, about the arrival of the AEC.
Thai Post released a 124mm long stamp, the longest it has ever issued, in the middle of January. The stamp showed 20 cartoon-style characters bedecked in the national dress of the 10 member nations of ASEAN, with the flags of the member states above each set of two characters.
The 5-baht stamp will, of course, become a collector’s item. The subject matter (ASEAN) and the cartoon-like style are perhaps very sub-consciously designed to appeal to the youth of Thailand and perhaps make them think a little more about what it means to be part of ASEAN, especially as the trading bloc will soon announced itself on the world stage.
National Children’s Day took place on 12 January with events for children occurring all over, from school playgrounds to shopping malls to gated village greens. In some cases a part of the fun entertainment for school children was to name a member nation of ASEAN, or recognise the flag of a member nation.
Taken individually, the occasional school question and answer session and the Thai postage stamp are hardly heavy-handed reminders of where the nation is about to be in less than three years. Yet collectively and in line with other equally subtle but nonetheless definite propaganda (for want of a better term) there is no doubt the message is sinking in that Thailand is about to face a huge change to the way it has done economic business.
How will the AEC impact on Thailand’s unemployment rate, for example? The nation ranked number three in the world in 2012 with an unemployment rate of just 0.7 percent of its 36-million plus labour force. Will the AEC lead to greater unemployment?
A hard question to answer, although when you break down the workforce into sectors you see 40.7 percent is engaged in agriculture, so it shouldn’t be impacted to any great degree.
Services is now the largest sector in the economy at around 46.1 percent and, at least in the early stages of the full implementation of the AEC, it too should be reasonably unaffected.
Industry, which makes up 13.2 percent of the workforce, is the one area where unemployment levels may rise.
So, how should Thailand prepare to minimise a potential rise in unemployment? One example might be taken from the highly successful Wangnamyen Dairy Cooperative whose executives have begun training their staff in English. While there are those who see understanding Chinese as the next big thing, the reality remains that English is still the lingua franca of business, and as such a good working knowledge of it should mitigate against losing a job.