BANGKOK — The national minimum wage was increased by the military government Wednesday for the first time in nearly five years.
A seven-hour special cabinet meeting ended Wednesday with labor officials announcing nationwide increases ranging from five baht to 22 baht in different regions.
“In the meeting we discussed the economic considerations, cost of living and competitive potential of each province,” said Jarin Chakkaphark, the Labor Ministry permanent secretary who headed Wednesday night’s meeting.
The new policy will go into effect April 1. Seven different rate increases were approved depending on location. Phuket, Chonburi and Rayong provinces will see the highest rate paid of 330 baht per day. The lowest paid workers will continue to be found in the southernmost provinces.
A national minimum wage of 300 baht per day was set in 2012. Since then, workers in some regions but not others have gotten increases, with the minimum wage in 2017 ranging from 300 baht to 310 baht depending on the province.
An academic Thursday called the move a populist measure to garner popularity for the ruling junta before general elections slated for later this year.
“This is actually a large increase,” said Bundit Thanachaisethavut, who researches labor issues.
Bundit said that the wage increase, the first to be done across the board since 2012, is a political strategy on the government’s part to “build a relationship with citizens.”
“You’ve seen economic policies such as the ‘Shop to Save the Nation’ tax breaks. These and this wage increase policy is a strategy to get votes. [Junta leader Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha] even declared himself to be a politician,” Bundit said.
Bundit said that as an economics expert, he had not expected the government to pass an increase of more than 15 baht. He was surprised that Bangkok was no longer among the provinces with the highest rate.
“Phuket has only had a minimum wage higher than Bangkok once, and this is the first time for Chonburi and Rayong,” Bundit said. “The government wants to to win public approval and develop industries there based on employers’ paying power.”
Workers in Bangkok, Nakhon Pathom, Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Samut Prakan, Samut Sakhon and Chachoengsao provinces will see an increase to 325 baht per day.
In Ubon Ratchathani, Suphan Buri, Saraburi, Ayutthaya, Nong Khai, Lopburi, Trat, Khon Kaen, Songkhla, Surat Thani, Krabi, Chiang Mai, Nakhon Ratchasima and Phang Nga, the increase will be to 320 baht.
Workers will earn a minimum of 318 baht per day in Chanthaburi, Samut Songkram, Sakon Nakhon, Mukdahan, Nakhon Nayok, Kalasin and Prachinburi provinces.
Roi Et, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Nakhon Sawan, Sa Kaeo, Phattalung, Uttaradit, Udon Thani, Buriram, Surin, Phetchaburi, Phitsanulok, Phetchabun, Chai Nat, Loei, Yasothon, Phayao, Bueng Kan, Nan, Kanchanaburi and Ang Thong will see an increase to 315 baht.
The southernmost provinces of Narathiwat, Yala and Pattani will have the lowest minimum wage of 308 baht.
The remaining 22 provinces will see an increase to 310 baht.