Women industrial workers in Thailand, many in the textile and electronics sectors, are pressing the government for greater job security and social welfare policies in the face of the global economic downturn. The calls came during rallies marking International Women's Day.
In speeches women trade union representatives in Thailand, marking international women's day activities, called for greater job security as the global economic downturn makes deep cuts into employment in export-oriented industries.
The rallies, led by workers from the textile and electronics industries, called on the government to provide more welfare to the unemployed workers and support industries hit by the downturn.
Speakers called for promotion of a welfare state, free education, tax reform, and a reduction in excessive spending in areas such as the military and the promotion of labor politics.
Miss Saifung is a university student who supported the trade union calls for better pay and job security.
"For the working class women they ask for gains [sic] is not enough, yes, salary or what they should get, so this is what is right for them to do today," she said. "As you can say for this demonstration I think they should focus more - I mean truly focus - on what the working class or the labor unions really need."
Female workers dominate textile, electronics industries
Thailand's textile and electronics industries, driving forces of its industrial export strategy over recent decades, are dominated by female workers. In many factories as many as three quarters of the employees are women.
But the recession and slide in export demand has left women factory workers bearing the brunt of cutbacks.
Mrs. Wonsanaporn is a textile factory worker. Since late last year, many factory owners have cut working hours and pay by 25 percent.
Wonsanaporn says the government should provide financial support to the factory which is facing problems in gaining credit to meet export orders.
Many fall outside labor protection laws
International Labor Organization, ILO, figures say almost 80 percent of Thailand's female workforce fall into the informal sector category, many in areas outside Thailand's labor protection laws.
Thai economists are warning Thailand's unemployment levels could reach 1.3 million people this year, more than double the
530,000 people who lost their jobs last year when the unemployment rate stood at 1.4 percent.
Khun Garn, another textile worker, said the government needed to provide concrete policies to support the unemployed.
She says job security must be enhanced. The policy must guarantee the people will have jobs, and not just empty promises from the government.
Growing unemployment poses bigger challenge
The growing ranks of the unemployed provide a further challenge to the Thai Government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, which came to power in December of last year. The government in January disbursed 10 billion baht - some $303 million - to ease the plight of the unemployed.
Suluk Lamubol, a representative from the Student Federation of Thailand, says the government will need to move quickly to assist the unemployed.
"The economic crisis has been affecting the labor, has been affecting the students, has been affecting office, white collar, the blue collar - the people are not going to be patient considering the situation right now; it's getting acute and more acute, it's really hard work for them," she said.
Prime Minister Abhisit, in accepting a list of demands from the women trade unionists, said the government was examining policies supportive of women in the workplace, as well as reforms to Thailand's social security system.