While the crisis years have been bleak for many, experts say some sectors are now showing strong demand for employees. While there is a trend towards these jobs being temporary rather than permanent, they can be a great way of getting into the market, and can still provide employees with satisfying work.

Country general manager of outsourcing specialist Manpower, Simon Matthews, says that he’s noticed a higher numbers of applicants seeking positions with his company over the past few months. "I haven’t done any sophisticated analysis, but this might be because the economic situation is improving: when people feel secure, they feel more comfortable looking for a new position."

Nevertheless, he added that there are still a lot of people without jobs seeking work. According to the National Statistics Office latest Labour Force Survey, unemployment in Thailand was 4.8 per cent for first quarter 2001. This was up from 3.7 per cent for the previous quarter, indicating that it’s still a tough market out there.

Mr Matthews says there is currently demand for jobs in the IT and manufacturing sectors: "from the highly technical positions to the maintenance and service staff". He has also noticed growing interest among companies wishing to upgrade their human resources functions, and a need to staff more call centres as companies relocate their service centres here.

Adecco Consulting’s general manager Aree Petcharat says that her company is also experiencing an increase in demand for telecommunications and IT workers, particularly in the internet and ecommerce areas."The big retailers are also expanding, and there is growth in some industries where foreign investors are coming in to take advantage of BOI [Board of Investment] privileges, such as high technology manufacturing."

In all these industries, she said jobs growth is evident both on the technical and non-technical sides. "There is very high demand on the technical side because our universities haven’t been producing enough graduates in this area," she said, adding that the situation is slowly being rectified, but employers are still requiring people with at least three to five years experience under their belt.

On the non-technical side, demand for people to work at call centres, in customer service, and marketing is high. "But there has been a high demand in these areas for some time," Aree said.

There is also evidence of a growing trend away from permanent positions towards temporary positions, mainly at the operations level. Aree says this has been driven by the 1998 Labour Protection Act, which increased the amount of severance pay given to departing employees. "This sort of cost is a burden on the big companies – those employing thousands – because their growth in revenue isn’t matching their growth in costs."

Manpower’s Mr Matthews adds that companies anywhere are generally reluctant to employ permanent staff after a recession, even when the economy starts to improve. "Nobody wants to be a hire and fire company," he said. "Hiring temporary staff allows companies to get through peaks and troughs more easily."

Aree says that companies are increasingly seeking multi-skilled staff. "For example, if an accounting graduate also has some marketing skills, that would be an advantage."

Job seekers are expected to have a grounding in English – which has long been the case – but she says a third language now doesn’t go astray either. "Mandarin or Japanese are useful," she said. "Or French, German – but I’d say the Asian languages are more in demand."

Being open-minded towards accepting a temporary position can be an important step towards entering or re-entering the workforce. "People here still want to find a permanent rather than temporary position," Aree noted. "However, if a new graduate takes a temporary job, it will make them more attractive to a permanent employer."

Furthermore, it’s not unusual for a temporary position to turn permanent. "New graduates lack this understanding. There is particularly a lot of potential with temporary jobs in multinational companies."

/ Finance