Thai ICT job scene is buoyant

There is strong demand for a spectrum of tech positions across all organizational levels in the Asian country, say market watchers.

Things are shining bright in Thailand for infocomm technology (ICT) professionals with the right skillsets.

There is strong demand of ICT jobs in the Kingdom across all levels--from platform developers to programmers to vice presidents--as businesses in Thailand from both the IT and other sectors embark on expansion plans due to improving business conditions, Tanatcsh Tornnawin, recruitment consultant at E IT Computing Recruitment, told ZDNet Asia in a phone interview.

Peter Fischbach, president of Bangkok, Thailand-based ISM Technology Recruitment, agrees. He noted that the strongest demand is for development staff, particularly those with experience using Microsoft .Net technologies.

"There is also solid demand for systems analysts and for staff with testing and quality assurance experience, particularly within the banking sector," said Fischbach, in an e-mail interview. "We have also seen the ICT vendor market remain buoyant, with ongoing needs for good pre-sales and sales staff."

Much of the demand is driven by requirements for new and upgraded systems from the Thai subsidiaries and affiliates of multinational companies, as well as large Thai enterprises, he said.

"Some of the demand also comes from what is effectively 'offshore' development work--companies which develop their own software for global use, in their own development centers here in Thailand," he explained.

The shortage of IT skills is not an unfamiliar scenario in Thailand.

"Even though Thailand's economic growth rate slowed in 2007, the local supply of skilled ICT staff was barely sufficient," said Fischbach. "In the first quarter of 2008, we are once again seeing a solid demand for our IT recruitment services because of the difficulty many companies have in finding good candidates."

In a report published in January 2007, Gartner's IT services and business process outsourcing analyst T. J. Singh, noted Thailand's low availability of skilled labor in areas such as change management, business analysis and project management.

"Also, there are higher levels of IT staff attrition, which isn't confined to the private sector but affects the government as well," Singh wrote in the report.

Thai employers are working harder to retain existing staff and, when necessary, paying slightly higher rates to lure qualified staff on board.

Fischbach noted that while there is a steady increase of university graduates with IT-related degrees, there is little serious and concerted effort by the Thai government to address the IT skills shortage.

"Having a larger number of foreign IT professionals working in Thailand would help transfer skills to the local staff with whom they would be working, and help make Thailand a 'magnet' for ongoing investment simply by virtue of their presence here, [but] the government continues to impede the efforts to hire foreigners," he said.

Specifically, the registered capital requirements and employee ratios for obtaining work permits prevent SMEs (small midsize enterprises) from hiring highly skilled foreign workers, wrote Fischbach in a paper entitled Removing Regulatory Limitations on Thai SME Growth.

The Labor Department will only issue one work permit for each 2 million baht (US$63,600) of a company’s registered and paid-up capital, or per each 1 million baht (US$31,800) of capital if the foreign employee has a Thai spouse. The regulations further limit the hiring of foreigners if the ratio of Thai to foreign staff is less than four to one.

"Many SMEs are service companies which do not require large capital investment," wrote Fischbach .

According to Tanatcsh, some 10 to 20 percent of the Thai ICT workforce is made up of foreign employees, including those from Hong Kong, India and Singapore.

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