Thailand says slowing economy dims outlook for minimum-wage hike

BANGKOK: The Thai government’s pledge to boost the country’s minimum wage is floundering because of an economic slowdown.

US-China trade tension and its impact on Thailand is one of the risks to monitor, according to Labor Minister Chatumongol Sonakul. An official report due Aug 19 may show economic growth slowed to a near five-year low of 2.2%, Siam Commercial Bank Pcl estimates.

“It would be very difficult to do a wage increase at all” if the economy is “looking bad,” Chatumongol, a former Bank of Thailand governor, said in an interview Wednesday in Bangkok. At the same time, he said wages need to climb in principle to improve the country’s outlook.

Thailand last year boosted the national minimum wage for the first time since 2013, to as much as 330 baht (US$10.70) in some areas. The elected coalition government that last month replaced the country’s junta pledged another increase in its policy statement.

About 4 million people live on minimum wages, 75-year-old Chatumongol said. Business lobbies have called for a delay in any increase because poor economic conditions are already pressuring companies.