In this era of globalisation, a lot of people are looking for employment and entrepreneurship opportunities away from home. Thailand has become one of the top destinations for these global workers. Dazzling beaches, a tropical climate, modern comforts, an affordable cost of living, good medical care, Thai hospitality, and an epic dining scene are just a few of the reasons why many choose to live and work in Thailand. By now, you might be thinking that Thailand sounds great. If you’re looking to join Thai’s job market, you need to have all the relevant information on the employment, business, and the overall economic situation in this country, which is what I’ve covered in this post. Note that 1 Thai baht = 0.033 US Dollars.
What is the average salary in Thailand? Thai employers pay an average salary of $18.66 an hour, $3,230 a month, or $38,774 a year. These figures include basic salary and benefits like housing and transport, which brings the net salary after tax and other deductions like insurance and credits to an average of $632.04 a month.
Working in Thailand allows you to participate in one of the most dynamic economies of Southeast Asia. Getting employment here has been an easy step up until the recent economic crisis. The good news is there are signs of recovery, with the Thai job market currently offering many opportunities to foreigners. Certain sectors like teaching and tourism are easier for expats to find employment, but if you have relevant skills that are difficult to find locally, opportunities will be available to you everywhere. Given how difficult moving abroad can be. I’ll give you insight into working in Thailand, including legal requirements, salaries offered, the cost of living, and how to go about self-employment, to ensure a smooth transition into Thai’s labour force market.
Average Salary in Thailand
Thai salaries will vary depending on your age, work experience, gender, level of education, type of job, and location among other things. The highest salaries are found in the cities of Bangkok and Chiang Mai at $44,733.62 and $42,995.64 a year respectively. To help you understand Thai salaries better, here’s an in-depth look at the common job titles, along with their average gross pay per annum:
- Accountant – $27,220
- Architect – $37,005
- Cashier – $21,905
- Chef – $32,124
- CEO – $87,608
- CFO – $80,715
- Computer technician – $29,688
- Developer/programmer – $34,415
- Engineer – $34,332
- General Manager – $66,758
- Hotel manager – $59,762
- Internal auditor – $40,111
- Lawyer – $59,360
- Nurse – $31,920
- Police officer – $31,452
- Receptionist – $24,995
- Teacher – $30,000
- Travel agent – $31,805
- Waitstaff – $23,841
All employees are required to pay personal income tax and contribute to the social fund. The income tax is done progressively with the first 150,000 Baht/year being exempted, then 5% for 150,000-250,000 Baht/year, 10% for 250,000-350,000 Baht/year, and so on.
Thailand has one of the strongest economies in Asia. Despite being marred by political instability for years, recent economic crisis, and the recent military coup, there are signs of recovery evidenced by low unemployment at 0.9%, a declining poverty rate, one of the highest GDP growth, a relatively stable currency, and increasing incomes. Thailand has become more stable and continues to offer a variety of opportunities to foreign employees and employers.
The country is transitioning to a market economy and boasts a newly industrialised economy thanks to its strong tourism, agriculture, and manufacturing industries. Although it’s still modernising, there’re still several high-tech economic opportunities in major cities. Major sectors include IT, rubber production, textiles, education, electrical appliances, and hospitality.
Thailand is also considered a middle power in geopolitics as it serves as an anchor economy for developing neighbours, including Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos.
Job opportunities for foreigners
Expat workers are usually needed to fill specialist positions in this dynamic economy. Therefore, if you have good academic credits and relevant skills in IT and tech industries, engineering, finance and trade, insurance, medical technology, or other professional fields, you’re bound to find plentiful opportunities.
The service sector is the biggest employer in Thailand with nearly half of the active population working in it.
Given that Thailand is a popular vacation destination, the tourism industry also offers many employment opportunities. With professional experience in certain service sectors, particularly in hotels or restaurants, you’re bound to find many available positions. There’s also a huge demand for operators of fishing expeditions, diving instructors, and other similar jobs.
Another popular option for foreigners in Thailand is to teach English. Openings for certified TEFL teachers are available in both major cities and smaller towns.
As society continues to modernise, there remains a huge demand for development workers. Several voluntary and paid jobs of this kind are available through international development organisations.
Beyond seeking employment, Thai’s emerging economy is a suitable environment for entrepreneurs from abroad. If you decide to take this route, ensure you fulfil all the legal requirements, which will vary depending on the legal structure of your company. As a general rule, the law requires any business to be Thai-owned with the exception of US citizens who are allowed to own a business without any restrictions. Running a business is not a walk in the park; as such, I strongly recommend getting support and input from a tax advisor and/or an experienced lawyer.
Whether you’re looking to start a business or get employed, keep in mind that foreigners are not allowed to work in certain professions. For this reason, make sure you find out what the prohibited occupations are before making any career moves.
Thailand Average Household Income
The annual household income per capita in Thailand was last recorded in December 2017 at $3,322.813 up from the previous value of $3,276.927 in 2015. The middle class in this country is currently emerging and statistics show that 13% of all households will be earning at least $17,361 by 2020. Still, Thailand has the widest income inequality in the ASEAN. This is largely the result of a long-term economic and political process where only leading households in urban areas have benefited from.
Minimum Wage in Thailand
The national minimum wage was introduced in Thailand in the 1970s to protect basic labourers from being exploited. The minimum salary for Thai people currently ranges from 300 baht ($9.92) a day based on the cost of living of the various provinces.
Thailand boosted the official minimum wage in 2018 for the first time since 2013. The figure was increased by 4.8% to 325 baht ($10.75) per day for Bangkok and six nearby provinces. In two of the most industrialised provinces in Thailand (Chonburi and Rayong) the minimum wage was increased by 7% to 330 baht ($10.91). And, across the remaining 77 provinces, the minimum wage was increased by 5 to 22 baht.
Thailand is set to increase the minimum wage in an attempt to attract workers amid a shortage of labour in major industries and an ageing population. Discussions are underway to raise the minimum wage to 400 baht/day. This may, however, be done gradually with rises in industries that can absorb them.
Employers who are caught paying anything less than the statutory minimum wage will be fined 100,000 Baht and/or jailed for 6 months.
Given that these minimum wages apply mostly to basic labourers, things look different for those holding degrees. The minimum wage for Bachelors and Master’s Degree holders are 15,000 and 25,000 Baht per month respectively.
In addition to minimum wage, employees are entitled to 6 days of paid annual leave and a minimum of 13 paid public holidays every year. Pregnant employees must be granted 90 days of maternity leave, but only 45 days can be paid.
The normal working hours in Thailand are 8 hours a day with at least an hour’s break. This translates to a 48-hour workweek working for six days a week. Overtime is allowed up to 36 hours per week.
Average Salary in Bangkok
Bangkok is Thai’s capital and the country’s major cultural and business hub. Working here allows you to participate in the motor of Thailand’s economy and a centre for Southeast Asian business. While the ability to speak Thai is a plus, it’s not necessary as English is widely spoken in this dynamic city. With that being said, how much can you expect to get paid in this city?
Bangkok has some of the highest salaries among ASEAN nation’s capitals. Employers here pay an average gross salary of $21.50 an hour, $3,728/month, or $44,740/year. This brings the take-home pay after tax and other deductions to an average of 25,500 Baht (approximately $800) per month. As with anywhere, salaries will vary between professions, employers, as well as based on an individual’s qualifications, work experience, and age. Generally, salaries in Bangkok are 15% higher than those of Thailand as a whole.
The job market
There’s a huge discrepancy between Bangkok and rural Thailand in terms of economic development. The city is more lucrative and continues to enjoy a stable economy despite experiencing political unrest for years. It houses several multinational companies, major Thai banks, and the Stock Exchange for Thailand. Most businesses here specialise in IT, finance, automotive, retail markets, business, logistics, real estate, textile production, electronics, and banking sectors. Foreigners who are highly skilled in these areas have a higher chance of finding employment in Bangkok. There are also lots of opportunities for teaching English.
As with the rest of the country, foreigners need to obtain a Thai work permit before they can start working here.
Cost Of Living
One of the main reasons why Thailand has become a top expatriation destination is the low cost of living. Assuming you want to live an average lifestyle, here are the average prices of common expenses in Thai’s households:
This is the biggest expense for anyone living in Thailand. Costs will vary depending on the location, the type of housing, and the facilities offered. Many expats choose to live in big cities like Bangkok where they end up spending over 30% of their monthly income on rent/mortgage payments. Rent for a one-bedroom apartment will average to $465 and 275 per month in the city centre and the suburbs respectively. A three-bedroom apartment in the same areas will go for $1,215 and $660 per month. Buying, on the other hand, will cost you $3,758/square metre and $1,856/square metre in the same areas.
There are several options when it comes to getting around Thailand. The public transportation system boasts a bus network, subway system, sky train, express boats, and motorcycle taxis. A one-way ticket on local transport will set you back about $0.86 while a monthly pass average to $35.72. If you live outside the major cities, having a private car is recommended. If that’s the case, note that gasoline costs $1.00/litre.
Fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as packaged food products, are widely available and cheap all over the country. Most expatriates who prepare meals at home can eat very well on less than $200 a month.
I didn’t include miscellaneous personal expenses like gadgets, entertainment, clothes, personal care, and the likes because their prices vary significantly between different household sizes and the quality of life you want. But generally, around $1,000 a month should be enough for a single person to live comfortably, inclusive of rent or mortgage payments.
About the author: Marta Kovachek is the author of this article. She graduated from the University of Chicago with a master’s degree in Economics. Marta enjoys writing about the current economic situation and loves helping our readers to find their next "destination". From places to live to complex social and economic topics, we always enjoy Marta's work. Please contact us in case of any questions.