IN-PRINCIPLE agreement has been reached about issues relating to the protection of workers within the region by social-security agencies in all 10 Asean countries.

Asean representatives agreed in a recent meeting that workers should be protected under common welfare conditions for either their benefit or the promotion of expatriate employment among member states, a deputy secretary-general of Thailand’s Social Security Office (SSO) said yesterday.

Foreign workers should enjoy benefits equal to citizens of host Asean countries where they work, Supatcharee Meekrut said. The representatives saw that Asean countries should soon formalise this and other principles for implementation before the Asean Economic Community (AEC) takes effect at the end of next year.

The other principle was that migrant workers should enjoy similar benefits in later stages, she said.

The SSO will submit the plan to the SSO board of directors soon for approval, and later to the National Council for Peace and Order, ahead of regional implementation. She said there would be other amendments to SSO and other regulations, as well as alteration of future conditions, pending SSO and NCPO approval.

Meanwhile, a proposal has been put to the NCPO to establish a new ministry focusing on development of human resources to improve skills of Thai workers so they can compete in other Asean states.

The director-general of the Department of Skill Development, Nakhon Silpa-archa, who made the proposal, said the DSD would be disbanded and merged with other departments – either under the Labour or other ministries – to kick off the plan.

The Development of Human Resources agency would be responsible for career training and development projects in areas such as English, cultural orientation, information technology and computer literacy and skill development.

Those holding diplomas and university degrees in vocational fields would be upgraded and education for these students would include on-the-job training at factories and workplaces with support by business associations in industrial production or related fields, Nakhon said.

The DSD was pushing for the 2002 vocational skill promotion law to be amended, Nakhon said, to certify skills of expatriate workers in welding, construction work, electricians and air-conditioner repairmen, who will work in Thailand after the AEC takes effect. –The Nation