United Nations Launches Thailand Migration Report 2019


Date Publish: 
Thursday, January 24, 2019

24/01/2019 - Thailand has achieved considerable progress in migration management and is well positioned to maximize the benefits of migration if more is done to ensure the welfare and protection of migrants, according to a new report released by the United Nations in Thailand.

Published on a regular basis since 2005, the Thailand Migration Report 2019 is the latest in the series produced by the UN Thailand Working Group on Migration – comprised of 16 UN agencies and chaired by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The report contains 11 chapters that delve into themes such as working conditions, access to services, remittances, human trafficking and exploitation. Each chapter, written by a specific UN agency, provides up-to-date information on migration trends and patterns in Thailand, as well as independent analysis of migration-related issues and policy developments.

Migration to Thailand has intensified since the previous report in 2014. Based on data from a range of sources, the report estimates that Thailand now hosts approximately 4.9 million non-Thai residents, a substantial increase from 3.7 million in 2014.

The majority of this population is comprised of migrants from neighboring Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar and Viet Nam, with an estimated 3.9 million documented and undocumented workers. Other major groups include an estimated 480,000 stateless persons, 110,000 skilled professionals and 100,000 refugees and asylum seekers.

Thailand benefits significantly from their presence. Migrant workers help fill labour shortages and contribute to economic growth, becoming ever more important as Thai society ages. Constituting over 10 per cent of the total labour force, their work is thought to contribute between 4.3 to 6.6 per cent of Thailand’s Gross Domestic Product.

For migrants and their family members, employment in Thailand supports increased standards of living and poverty reduction in their home countries. Up to USD 2.8 billion in remittances are sent annually to families through formal channels to countries in the four main countries of origin. The figure rises to as much as USD 10 billion if informal remittance flows are taken into consideration.

The Report notes that important steps have been taken by the Royal Thai Government to combat human trafficking and exploitative working conditions for migrants, including reforms to the laws and regulatory bodies used to manage the fisheries sector, amendment of the Royal Ordinance on the Management of Foreign Workers Employment, establishment of Migrant Worker Assistance Centres and ratification of the 2014 Protocol to the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29).

Nevertheless, many migrants continue to face hardship and remain vulnerable to abuse. “While the situation for migrants in Thailand has improved in some ways since the last report in 2014, many challenges remain the same”, says Benjamin Harkins, the Report’s editor. “Policy responses risk leaving migrants vulnerable and unsure of their legal status in Thailand".

Thailand has enacted progressive policies that guarantee migrants access to many essential services regardless of legal status, including education and health care. Nonetheless, barriers continue to hamper their use of these services in practice. Only 51 per cent of all eligible migrants are currently enrolled in public health insurance schemes, while up to 200,000 migrant children remain out of school, the report notes.

Each chapter of the report provides recommendations for policy and programmatic changes to improve migration governance. “In line with many of the objectives in the 2018 Global Compact on Migration, recently adopted and endorsed by the Government of Thailand, the Report provides key recommendations for all stakeholders to ensure that migration remains well-managed, safe, orderly and regular”, says Dana Graber Ladek, Chief of Mission of IOM Thailand.

Deirdre Boyd, the UN Resident Coordinator in Thailand, notes the important emphasis on partnerships in the report, with the Government, private sector, civil society, trade unions, international organizations and the media all having their part to play.

“The United Nations is committed to supporting Thailand in its efforts to establish a long-term, coherent and rights-based governance framework that maximizes the benefits of migration for both migrants and society as a whole”, she confirms.  

The Thailand Migration Report 2019 is a publication jointly produced by members of the UN Thailand Working Group on Migration, namely: FAO, IOM, ILO, OHCHR, UN-ACT, UNAIDS, UNCDF, UNDP, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNHCR, UNICEF, UNODC, UN Women, the World Bank and WHO.

The report can be downloaded for free here.

For more information, please contact Reuben Lim, IOM Thailand Communications and Media Officer, at rlim@iom.int or 02 343 9370.