Work in Thailand: A Quick Guide to Relocating

Bangkok skyline at dusk

The mundane Monday–Friday schedule, the routine transportation and the same old places and people.

Can’t do it anymore?

We don’t blame you one bit.

Living and working in the concrete jungle isn’t for everyone. Thankfully, because the economy has gone global, exotic locations that seemed impossible to live and work in are now possible.

One of these destinations? Thailand.

Not only is Thailand an exotic travel hotspot for selfie-crazed millennials, but it’s also a developing market that offers an abundance of opportunities that allow you to work abroad. Relocating to Thailand may have seemed far-fetched a couple of decades ago, but now it’s a reality, one where you can enjoy a low cost of living, beautiful scenery and delicious food.

Determined to wake up halfway around the world? Then be sure to read our breakdown of what you can expect when moving to Thailand.

General Information

Officially known as the Kingdom of Thailand, the nation is located in southeast Asia. It has about 69 million residents, good for No 20 in the world.

Marred by political instability for decades, and most recently the military coup, Thailand has incrementally become a lot more stable. This has ultimately helped the country to become the second-largest economy in the region. It boasts a $1.4 trillion gross domestic product, a 0.9% unemployment rate and a relatively stable currency (baht). Transitioning to a market economy, Thailand boasts a newly industrialised country, thanks to its heavy agriculture, manufacturing and tourism industries.

The emerging country is considered a middle power in geopolitics and serves as an anchor economy for developing neighbours Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar. Since the 2014 economic downturn, when the government clamped down on immigration but has since normalised the movement of peoples, Thailand has revved up.

Though, like other Asian markets, Thailand has been generally impacted by the global trade spat. Experts say, however, that the data suggest trade is beginning to improve, despite escalating US–China tensions. Plus, the federal government recently announced a $10 billion stimulus package to spur growth.

Biggest Sectors

Thailand just recorded its weakest growth since 2014, impacted by a crippling trade war between the world’s two largest economies. But there is still a lot to be optimistic about: a low unemployment rate, a 25th ranked gross domestic product, a declining poverty rate and ballooning incomes. Competitive business, as well as corporate and personal income tax rates help make Thailand an attractive nation to plant new roots or become a major player in the global market.

Here are some of the biggest companies where you might want to get hired when you’re new to Thailand:

  • PTT Public Company Limited (a state-owned oil and gas company with a market capitalisation of $45 billion)
  • Airports of Thailand (the most valuable airport operator in the world)
  • CP All (a chain of convenience stores operating under the 7-Eleven trademark)
  • Advanced Info Service (a telecommunications giant that offers mobile networks, broadband Internet and digital services)
  • Siam Cement Group (the largest and oldest cement and building materials company in Thailand)

Like other markets, some sectors are more successful and in demand than others. When you’re looking for jobs in Thailand, these are the industries you might want to consider (as a percentage of GDP):

  • automobiles and automotive parts (11%)
  • financial services (9%)
  • electric appliances and components (8%)
  • tourism (6%)
  • cement (4%)

Salaries

In 2018, Thailand raised the national minimum wage for the first time in five years to 330 baht (around $10.70). In July 2019, the Ministry of Labour announced a gradual increase to 400 baht ($13) to allow industries to incrementally absorb the added labour costs.

Employees’ salaries will mainly be determined by their experience and education, and the industry they work in. The data suggest that the two most lucrative sectors to work in are healthcare and finance. The five top-paying jobs are:

Cost of Living

You’ve probably read a myriad of stories on different websites about living on a low amount of money a month in some exotic location. A lot of these might seem like clickbait, but some countries do offer a low cost of living that still offers some of the comforts of what you’re accustomed to back home.

Thailand is one of these places. Although it’s a favourite tourist hotspot these days, it is one of the top expatriate locations that maintain a superb infrastructure and offer many reliable services. Put simply, living standards have gone up, but the costs remain low – for now.

Housing costs do vary throughout the nation, but if your aim is to spend a maximum of $1,000 a month on rent, then you’re in luck. Here is a breakdown of the main cities in Thailand and their rental costs:

  • Bangkok: $330 to $660 per month for a one-bedroom apartment
  • Chiang Mai: $720 for a three-bedroom apartment
  • Chiang Rai: $320 for a three-bedroom home
  • Malay: $370 for a one-bedroom apartment
  • Pattaya: $680 for a three-bedroom condominium

Typically, if you are residing in rural Thailand, you can expect to spend between $255 and $570 for one- and three-bedroom apartments.

Basic utilities – hydro, water and garbage service – range between $50 and $60 a month. Air conditioning will set you back $70 per month, meanwhile, and unlimited Internet service averages under $20. Food costs are also reasonable, and you can buy a loaf of bread for $1 and a dozen eggs for $1.80.

Interested in going out for a meal? You will likely spend $27 for a three-course lunch at a mid-range restaurant. But if you want less expensive programmes for your evenings or weekends, then you can always enjoy an authentic culinary Thai experience for a couple of bucks.

Working Conditions

Now that Thailand has been inching closer to economic powerhouse status, thanks to its vast exporting capacities, the country has adopted many of the same labour practices that are afforded to westerners.

So, for instance, normal working hours are eight hours per day with at least a one-hour break. Also, if the work is labelled as physically demanding, then the maximum number of hours is seven. Thailand workers generally clock in, on average, 42 hours a week.

Employees are given 13 paid public holidays every year – if one these days falls on a weekend, then the next working day will be determined as a paid holiday. A staff member who has completed a minimum of one year on the job will be granted at least six paid days of leave.

Pregnant women are allowed at least 90 days of maternity leave, with 45 of those days covered by the employer.

Finding a Job

As someone not from the native land, it might seem like a daunting task to search for employment in Thailand. But you would be mistaken if this was your thought. Why? The economy is, on a long-term basis, expanding. Therefore, companies are always looking for the best and brightest talent – at home or abroad.

But there is one thing that you can do to boost your job prospects: speak the language.

Many Thais appreciate it when they see someone from the US, the UK or Australia who has learned Thai. This is especially true of contractors, vendors and manufacturers because then they do not need to worry about speaking English or signing. Overall, they are pleased when they can communicate in their native tongue, which can increase the odds of you gaining employment.

Visa and Work Permits

A foreigner entering Thailand is not permitted to legally work, no matter what type of personal, education or working visa he or she maintains. Every foreigner is required to apply for a work permit, a legal document that lists the position, current occupation, job description and company. The process takes about seven business days to complete, which will be done by the Ministry of Labour office.

A non-Thai person is eligible to apply for a work permit under these conditions:

  • holds a non-immigrant or resident visa
  • has an employer available to provide work documents (VAT application, company certificate, financial statement, employment agreement and list of shareholders, if applicable)
  • the occupation will not be prohibited from other foreigners.

To submit an application, the candidate must possess these requirements:

  • address in Thailand
  • certificate of degree
  • letter of employment
  • medical certificate
  • original passport
  • two two-inch photos

It is true that Thailand has its own problems – politically and economically. But Bangkok is quickly transforming into the desired place to find employment, start a business or invest in a diverse array of opportunities because of a more pro-business agenda employed years ago.

Thailand, known for beaches, pad Thai and a Street Fighter battle location, will welcome you with open arms and a healthy work-life balance.

Up for the challenge? Start making plans today and be ready to breathe the open air again while you find work, an apartment and gorgeous scenery.

Have you moved to Thailand for work? What advice would you give people planning to relocate there? Join the conversation down below!