United Nations Launches Thailand Migration Report 2019

Thailand Migration Report 2019 is produced by the UN Thailand Working Group on Migration, which is chaired by IOM. Photo: IOM

Bangkok – Thailand has built its migration management capacity and is well positioned to maximize the benefits of migration if more is done to ensure the welfare and protection of migrants, according to a new report released by the United Nations in Thailand. 

Published on a regular basis since 2005, the Thailand Migration Report 2019 is the latest in a series produced by the UN Thailand Working Group on Migration, which is chaired by IOM and brings together 16 UN agencies. 

The report comprises 11 chapters that address working conditions, access to services, remittances, human trafficking and exploitation. Chapters are written by contributors from various UN agencies and provide up-to-date information on migration trends and patterns, as well as independent analysis of migration-related issues and policy developments.  

Migration to Thailand has intensified since the previous report in 2014. Based on data from a range of sources, the report estimates that Thailand now hosts approximately 4.9 million non-Thai residents, a substantial increase from 3.7 million in 2014.  

Most of them come from neighbouring Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar and Viet Nam, accounting for an estimated 3.9 million documented and undocumented migrant workers. Other major groups include an estimated 480,000 stateless persons, 110,000 skilled professionals and 100,000 refugees and asylum seekers. 

Thailand benefits significantly from their presence. Migrant workers help fill labour shortages, contribute to economic growth and are becoming ever more important as Thai society ages. Constituting over 10 per cent of the total labour force, their work is thought to contribute between 4.3 to 6.6 per cent of Thailand’s Gross Domestic Product. 

For migrants and their family members, employment in Thailand supports increased standards of living and poverty reduction in their home countries.  Up to USD 2.8 billion in remittances is sent home to families through formal channels to countries in the four main countries of origin every year. The figure rises to as much as USD 10 billion if informal remittance flows are also taken into account.  

The report notes that important steps have been taken by the Royal Thai Government to combat human trafficking and exploitative working conditions for migrants, including reforms to the laws and regulatory bodies used to manage the fisheries sector, amendment of the Royal Ordinance on the Management of Foreign Workers Employment, establishment of Migrant Worker Assistance Centres, and ratification of the 2014 Protocol to the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29). 

Nevertheless, many migrants continue to face hardship and remain vulnerable to abuse. “While the situation for migrants in Thailand has improved in some ways since the last report in 2014, many challenges remain the same. Policy responses risk leaving migrants vulnerable and unsure of their legal status in Thailand," said report editor Benjamin Harkins. 

Thailand has enacted progressive policies that guarantee migrants access to many essential services regardless of legal status, including education and health care.  But barriers continue to hamper their use of these services in practice. Only 51 per cent of all eligible migrants are currently enrolled in public health insurance schemes, while up to 200,000 migrant children remain out of school, the report notes.  

Each chapter of the report provides recommendations for policy and programmatic changes to improve migration governance. “In line with many of the objectives in the 2018 Global Compact on Migration, recently adopted and endorsed by the Government of Thailand, the report provides key recommendations for all stakeholders to ensure that migration remains well-managed, safe, orderly and regular,” said IOM Thailand Chief of Mission Dana Graber Ladek.  

UN Resident Coordinator in Thailand Deirdre Boyd noted the important emphasis on partnerships in the report, with the government, private sector, civil society, trade unions, international organizations and the media all having a part to play.  “The United Nations is committed to supporting Thailand in its efforts to establish a long-term, coherent and rights-based governance framework that maximizes the benefits of migration for both migrants and society as a whole,” she stated.    

The Thailand Migration Report 2019 is a publication jointly produced by members of the UN Thailand Working Group on Migration. These include: FAO, IOM, ILO, OHCHR, UN-ACT, UNAIDS, UNCDF, UNDP, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNHCR, UNICEF, UNODC, UN Women, the treate Bank and WHO. 

Download a free copy of the report here: 

For more information, please contact Reuben Lim at IOM Thailand, Tel: +66.2.343 9370, Email: