TRIANGLE in ASEAN – Thailand

The ILO TRIANGLE in ASEAN is a partnership between the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the Global Affairs Canada (GAC), and the International Labour Organization (ILO). TRIANGLE in ASEAN delivers technical assistance and support with the overall goal of maximizing the contribution of labour migration to equitable, inclusive and stable growth in ASEAN.

Programme objectives

TRIANGLE in ASEAN has the overall goal of maximizing the contribution of labour migration to equitable, inclusive and stable growth in ASEAN. It builds on the activities, relationships and processes established under previous phases of the programme.

Programme outcomes

  • Protection: Migrant workers are better protected by labour migration governance frameworks;
  • Development: Policies and programmes harness the potential of women and men migrant workers to contribute to economic and social development and
  • Mobility: Labour mobility systems are gender-responsive and increase the efficiency of labour markets in the ASEAN region.

Labour migration

Over the last two decades, Thailand has become a key destination for migrant workers from neighbouring countries, and increasingly from further afield in ASEAN. As of December 2019, there were 2,788,316 registered migrant workers in Thailand (Ministry of Labour, 2019). Women and men migrant workers make a substantial contribution to Thailand’s economic performance. According to a study by the ILO and OECD, migrants were responsible for 4.3 - 6.6 per cent of Thailand’s GDP in 2010, while representing 4.7 per cent of the employed population (ILO/OECD, 2017). These migrants are predominately employed in low-skilled jobs, including fishing, agriculture, construction, manufacturing, domestic work, and other services. Thailand is also a country of origin for migrant workers. As of February 2020, 148,048 Thai nationals were for work abroad (Department of Employment, 2020).

Despite transitioning from being a net sending to a net receiving country during the 1990s, Thailand’s labour migration governance framework has remained largely ad hoc. In 2002 and 2003, the Royal Thai Government signed Memoranda of Understandings (MOUs) on employment cooperation with the governments of Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), and Myanmar, which established a channel for regular labour migration to Thailand from neighbouring countries. However, only a small proportion of migrants have up to recently entered Thailand through the MOU process due to the complicated, lengthy, and expensive procedures involved. In 2015 and 2016, Thailand revised the MOUs to broaden cooperation on labour issues, including skills development and social protection, and signed a new agreement with Viet Nam.

During 2016 to 2018, Thailand developed a more comprehensive legal framework to manage labour migration in parallel with the implementation of the MOU processes. While the MOU channel and the border employment scheme remained the two formal channels for migrant workers to enter Thailand, the government allowed irregular migrants already working in Thailand to come forward and formally register through the so-called regularization procedures. During the period, 1,827,096 migrant workers came forward and completed their regularization process. Overall, an increased number of migrant workers have been recruited through these formal channels from Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Myanmar. The Government of Thailand has announced that with the new legal framework, low-skilled migrant workers from Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Viet Nam will only be recruited through MoU channels or border employment. No further amnesty measures will be granted.

For further information please contact:

Ms Chonticha Tangworamongkon,
National Project Coordinator (NPC) for Thailand
Email: tangworamongkon@ilo.org