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Up until recently, working in Thailand has been an easy next step for many seduced by the country’s sunny shores and warm cultural climate. The Thai economy has, however, changed in the face of political instability. While there are signs of recovery, some industries have been profoundly affected and investors have been reluctant to spend in the country.
The job market in Thailand
While the majority of job opportunities can be found in Bangkok, many expats choose to work in the surrounding countryside and the picturesque southern islands. This lets them live in natural splendour and enjoy the relaxed lifestyle available to foreign residents.
Apart from income generated by tourism, the economy of Thailand also heavily relies on exports. It is one of the world’s largest agricultural exporters of products such as rice, sugar, rubber and shrimp; and the country is a major producer of export automobiles, textiles and electronics. There are also strong manufacturing, logistics and communications industries.
While growth levels are expected to remain modest at best, Thailand still has the second largest economy in Southeast Asia. It also plays a major part in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) with countries such as Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia and others.
The automotive industry has experienced recent growth, and as always, the demand for English speakers in the services sector remains high as the country increasingly caters to a globalised economy.
Most expats who work in Thailand work in the service sector, specifically in the tourism and teaching industries.
Teaching English in Thailand is still the most common type of work available to expats; the industry is relatively easy to navigate and offers salaries that are high compared to local wages.
Finding a job in Thailand
Expats with the right qualifications should be able to find opportunities online, while many others move to the country first, take a course and look for work. The highest paying teaching jobs are at international schools in Thailand while English language schools are also a popular option.
It is important to remember that expats hired or transferred from overseas tend to make higher salaries than those who find a job in Thailand after they arrive.
Tourism is another popular source of work for foreigners, particularly for expats living outside Bangkok. There are usually a variety of opportunities for expats with recognised diving certifications, and with a host of dive shops and liveaboards, the lifestyle offered can be very tempting.
Tourism and teaching are not the only options available to expat job seekers. Some expats find work promoting Thai products in English at conventions and presentations. This option does present unique challenges as jobs are usually secured through networking, and expats will have to work to build their reputation as a speaker.
While Thai companies usually prefer to hire locally when it comes to professional fields like accounting, engineering and law, there are multinational corporations that may be able to offer expats with specialised skills opportunities. A work permit is needed to work legally in Thailand and this is usually organised by the hiring company.
Aside from networking and searching online, there are a number of English language newspapers in Thailand that have job advertisement sections.
Work culture in Thailand
Expats wanting to work in Thailand should try to negotiate an expat package in the currency of their home country or in USD.
An expat employee’s normal work day and their working week will largely depend on the industry they are working in. Jobs in the tourism industry often have irregular hours and shifts.
The working week in Thailand is officially from Monday to Saturday, although many businesses work until Friday or are only open for half a day on Saturdays. Employees can work up to a maximum of 48 hours a week.
Expats usually don’t go to Thailand to save money. While they are generally more interested in the country’s natural riches, this doesn’t have to mean that foreigners can’t make a decent living in Thailand.
Are you an expat living in Thailand?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Thailand. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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