- Download our Moving to Thailand Guide (PDF)
Until recently, working in Thailand has been an easy next step for many, seduced by the country’s sunny shores and warm cultural climate. The Thai economy has, however, changed in the face of political instability, though there are signs of recovery.
While the majority of job opportunities can be found in Bangkok, there are also many expats who choose to work in the surrounding countryside or the picturesque southern islands. This lets them live in natural splendour and enjoy the relaxed lifestyle available to foreign residents.
Job market in Thailand
Thailand’s government restricts the hiring of foreigners in specific roles. This is done to protect Thai nationals and prevent increased inequality. Expats are restricted mainly to skilled and semi-skilled work, and specific jobs, including wood carving, hairdressing, weaving and polishing precious stones, are off-limits. This is only limited to around 40 vocations, so expats can still find work in other sectors.
Apart from income generated by tourism, Thailand’s economy also heavily relies on exports. It’s one of the world’s largest agricultural exporters of rice, sugar, rubber and shrimp and is a leading producer of export cars, textiles and electronics.
Thailand also has strong manufacturing, logistics and communications industries. Most expats who work in Thailand have a job in the service sector, specifically in the tourism and teaching industries. The IT industry is also growing in Thailand, so expats can also find opportunities in this sector.
Finding a job in Thailand
Expats with the right qualifications can usually find opportunities online, while many others first move to the country, take a course and then start the job hunt.
The highest-paying teaching jobs are at international schools in Thailand, while English-language schools are also a popular option. Tourism is another popular source of work for foreigners, particularly for expats living outside Bangkok.
It’s important to remember that expats hired or transferred from overseas tend to make higher salaries than those who find a job in Thailand after they arrive.
While Thai companies often prefer to hire locally when it comes to professional fields like accounting, engineering and law, there are multinational corporations that may be able to offer expats with specialised skills opportunities. A work permit is needed to work legally in Thailand, and this is frequently organised by the hiring company.
- The Bangkok Post offers a job portal on its website.
- Craigslist hosts job listings across several industries.
- Newcomers to Thailand seeking teaching jobs should look no further than Ajarn.com.
Work culture in Thailand
An expat’s workday and workweek will largely depend on their industry of employment. Jobs in the tourism industry frequently have irregular hours and shifts.
The working week in Thailand is officially from Monday to Saturday, although many businesses work until Friday or are only open for half a day on Saturdays. Legally, employees can work up to a maximum of 48 hours a week.
Hierarchy, harmonious relationships and collective identity are integral to the Thai workplace. Expats in more formal industries will be expected to wear suitable attire and be punctual for business meetings to maintain their professional standing.
►See Doing Business in Thailand for advice on etiquette in the Thai workplace.
What do expats say about the Thai work culture?
"If you do want to work in Thailand, make sure you have the right visa. I cannot stress this enough. If you find a job before you arrive, you’re in a better position to have your employer help you get all the paperwork in order." Read more of Mike's expat interview about life in Thailand.
"I will say I’m very glad I work for an international company. I’m not a fan of how small Thai companies are run, and I’ve worked for several. The cultural element of “respect is not earned, it’s given to whoever is oldest, richest, or has the most important friends” is hard to get used to when my own culture is primarily merit-based." Learn more about working in Thailand in our interview with Canadian expat Greg.
Are you an expat living in Thailand?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Thailand. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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