Getting A Job In
Thailand (Well Paid)
This is the difficult part. You ever heard that if it
were so easy to be a millionaire, everyone would be one
already? You could say the same thing about getting a
well-paid job in Thailand. If well-paid jobs, by
Western standards, grew on trees ripe for the picking, no
males would be left in Western nations. They'd have
all immigrated to Thailand by now to enjoy the women,
tropical fruits, wonderful beaches, and lower cost of
foreigners, teaching the A-B-C's is the best it gets
"Well paid" is a relative term. So that we're not discussing
vague generalities here, we'll define well-paid very simply: the
average wage of what the average worker would make back in your own
country. That, too, leaves too much room for interpretation, so
we'll define the average worker wage as a nation's gross domestic
product (GDP) divided by its total population, known as the GDP per
capita. This is not a true measure of an individual
citizen's wealth, as we mention
here when we discuss
how Australia has a higher standard of living than the USA despite the
USA enjoying a higher GDP per capita. GDP per
capita should suffice for this discussion. The U.S. dollar
to Thai baht exchange rate used was the average rate for all of 2009.
per capita in USD, per month -- IMF figures for 2009
||In Thai Baht (2009)
The countries selected for the table reflect many of the popular
nationalities that decide to move to Thailand to make a new life there.
The monthly 'salary' figures for each country are adjusted for
purchasing power parity (PPP), the equivalent amount of money in U.S.
dollars necessary in one country to buy the same basket in another. If one country's citizens take home
twice the salary as another, but the cost of all essential goods and
services is also twice the cost, both countries, adjusted for purchasing
power parity, would be equal.
None of the figures above, for any country, reflect the wage of a
star earner. An American earning $3,865/month is
not going to have everyone wanting to be his friend and get a piece of
him. In Thailand, the average salary figure is actually inflated.
Like the USA, a concentration of extremely wealthy people, earning
monumental salaries, inflate the averages. As wealth
redistribution in both Thailand and the USA is minimal, their higher
average salary figures tend to be misleading. In Thailand, a
typical manufacturing job pays 6,500B monthly. A full-time nanny
or driver earns 8,000-10,000B. The average salary listed in
the table, 23,220B, corresponds to what a researcher, sales/marketing staff, or
starting level engineer earns. Higher level positions in
Thailand, like a plant manager (75,000B) or human resource director
(72,000B) still pay less than what the average worker takes home in New
Zealand, the country ranked lowest on the list.
The point we're making is that even more educated Thais don't take home
salaries that surpass what Joe Average earns in a more developed nation.
A webmaster makes 45,000-60,000B monthly. A LAN manager,
60,000-80,000B. There are only a few jobs, like that of an
IT manager (100,000B+) that equal or surpass what Joe Average back home
is earning. Coming to Thailand for work, therefore, means a
step down in wages -- if you're able to snag a job.
A monthly wage in Thailand of over 100,000B, equivalent to Joe Average
abroad, would allow a family to live an upper middle-class existence, as
long as the children didn't attend pricey foreign international schools which could be equal
in cost to what you'd pay for private schooling in the UK.
The average salary of Joe Average in his home country, earned in
Thailand instead, is how we'll define "well paid."
It removes the subjectivity. Only thing is, most jobs
aren't paying that.
You do encounter the occasional expat on a enviable package who earns 200,000-300,000B
per month and more. These people
are rare, and they were relocated to Thailand by their home companies.
If you relocate yourself, no
foreign company would have any reason to offer you a high wage.
They already know you want to be here, so a premium is not necessary
because you're not being inconvenienced. I
met a Dutch poultry farmer who'd been relocated to Thailand by his
company for 2 years
and was then being paid a Dutch salary. He said that if he
decided to stay beyond those 2 years, he would subsequently be offered a
Many a foreigner wishing to relocate to Thailand is stopped because
he'll watch his wages shrink. The higher paying jobs, even if you
got the skills, aren't even a slam dunk if you don't speak fluent Thai.
As long as a Thai can do the job for a lot less money, there's no reason
to offer you a "well paid" salary. This is simple economics
and why so many jobs are outsourced to China and India.
Getting A Job In Thailand (Not
If you do a search on the internet right now for "jobs in Thailand,"
nearly all the links that pop up deal with teaching English.
This should be of no surprise. English-teaching is one job
foreigners are perceived to be better at than Thais. Wages are not
high in the absolute sense, perhaps 400B/hour. With a 40-hour work
week, this would come to less than 70,000B/month. On an hourly
wage though, you'd never acquire 40-hour weeks, week after week, let
alone in a single week. Cancellation of lessons is rampant,
and when they do occur, you don't get paid for that hour.
Note that the 400B/hour wage is considered relatively high in a country where the
minimum wage isn't even 200B per day. A foreigner earning
35,000-45,000B/month as an English teacher is earning as much as a
system analyst. The English teacher needn't even be that educated
or speak flawless English. At better institutions, a university
degree is required, but plenty of schools won't care. A
degree-less English-speaking Cockney can still take home as much as a
Teaching English is generally mocked as a low-paying dead-end job, not
by Thais, but by fellow Westernerss sitting back in the home countries
observing their brethren slum it in Thailand to stay here. I had a
Canadian friend teaching English for 2 years in a Thai beachside resort
area after spending
3 years doing it in Korea. On a great month, he might earn
40,000B. Most of the time he earned only 25,000B. He was actually
good at his job. Had he not been, he still would've earned the
While English-teaching is generally regarded as a ticket to nowhere,
teaching at an English-language school could prove relatively lucrative.
Those earning the highest salaries (100,000B+) are people with education
degrees who've been recruited from abroad to come teach in Thailand at
international schools in Bangkok frequented by expat children and elite
Thais. (General rule: you'll always earn more if you're
brought to Thailand rather than bring yourself). These teachers
teach in English; they don't teach English. A
step down from that on the wage scale is a position at an
English-language school frequented by upper middle-class Thais.
The Canadian friend who'd spent 2 years teaching English for
sick of his pittance wages and relocated to Bangkok to teach science at
such a school, earning 65,000B his first year and 75,000B his second.
Schools would prefer to hire people from countries where English is the
national tongue, places like the UK, USA, Canada,
Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. Having a white face
helps a lot. A Maori New Zealander or black South African isn't
going to be handed out the most lucrative jobs, if a job at all.
This is the same reason you rarely see English-teaching positions
advertised to Indian and Singaporean nationals. India and
Singapore are not white countries. Don't argue that these
practices aren't fair. One could argue that it's unfair to have to
look at plump, matronly, or male steward(esses) on Western airlines
while Asian airlines employ young shapely female vixens with great legs.
Leave your Western ideas of fairness and equality
in your garbage disposal or don't bother coming over in the first place.
Working From Thailand
In the 1970 book Future Shock, sociologist Alvin Toffler
predicted the wave of individuals who would be able to telecommute.
I have met foreigners in Thailand whose jobs involved beta testing
computer code, verifying the strength of computer security systems, or
buying and selling things online. These jobs could be done from
anywhere. Even if these people earned the average salary for their
own country, over in Thailand they live a much higher standard of
life. In Thailand, they're considered well paid.
Here's the clinker: most don't have or can't do these kinds of jobs.
Are you a landscape gardener, a plasterer, an envelope stuffer, a surgeon, or a mechanic? You can't telecommute, my
friend. Nor can you come to Thailand to practice your skills and
earn a decent wage by your home standards.
As with everything, the rarer your skills, the more likely people back
home will bend over backwards to let you
telecommute. Danes who were neighbors of mine for a very short
time were able to telecommute. The husband did some sort of
software code for Danish banks. I don't believe this was a very
difficult job, and he didn't seem to be putting in much work, but the
home firm needed someone who could program in this particular rare
computer language and who spoke Danish fluently. The wife was a
teacher and taught Danish to Arab migrants to Denmark. Her minimal
knowledge of Arabic and the fact so few people worldwide speak Danish
prevented her job, like her husband's, from being completely outsourced.
If these two were Americans and wanted to relocate to Thailand for a
year, they would've been fired. Even more likely, they
would've had their jobs outsourced to India long before they concocted
the idea to spend a year in Thailand.
Those who can work from Thailand already know who they are. If
you're unsure if you can work from Thailand, then you can't.
Creating Your Own Work In Thailand
After teaching English, creating one's own job is the next most popular
option for foreigners relocating to the Kingdom.
When you think about it logically, it's sensible foreigners would do
this. They have to. Most don't speak Thai. No Thai
company would hire them, and even if they would, the wages would give
the foreigner indigestion. Foreigners coming to Thailand to
start a new life are, in some respects, like pioneer immigrants flooding
into the USA two centuries ago. They weren't migrating to get a
job as a librarian. They were doing so to exploit opportunities
the Old World didn't allow them to.
The types of businesses the majority of farangs (the Thai word for
foreigner) are setting up are not nanofabrication plants, semiconductor
factories, or computer generated imaging studios. They're
restaurants, bars, or Thai massage parlors -- what I call lifestyle
businesses. Legally, 51% of the shares of any Thai-run business
must be in Thai hands. Foreign men, married to Thai women, put the
lion's share of the operation into the spouse's name. It is
possible to get around this 51% Thai-ownership rule if you're investing
huge amounts of capital, creating reams of jobs for Thais, and doing a
fair share of exporting. You can also get around the
legal figment of Thai 51% ownership by recruiting a Thai-based law firm
accustomed to setting up foreign-owned companies.
If you're bring over USD 100
million to invest in a fruit juice bottling company, the Thai government
may consider making you an honorary king. But if you're just
investing a fraction of that in setting up a go kart race track, don't
expect anyone to care. The reality is that the Thai government's attitude towards migrants appears to be 180
degrees to that of a Western government's. Foreign retirees
and workers from Thailand's neighbors (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam)
are excluded from this discussion.
If a Thai wanted to migrate to the USA, for example, he could use
existent family there, special skills, and an adequate current bank
balance to strengthen his application. If the Thai were an expert
in a hard-to-find skill, many developed nations might compete to have
him relocate to their countries.
Most foreigners coming to Thailand to create their own jobs set up
businesses the Thais wouldn't -- or if the Thais would, they'd only do
so much later as a copycat business after the foreigner had
already proven the model. When Doug first came to Thailand in
1994, he went diving on the then undeveloped island of Koh Tau.
At that time, there were several dive shops on the island, all
foreigners who provided the seed capital to set them up and import
foreign quality dive gear for clients. Few Thais would have
bothered to set up such a shop in the mid 90's. With the model
now proven, they might today. Foreigners were initially behind the establishment of
all adventure sports shops in Thailand. The mecca of cuisines that have spread throughout the Kingdom
is the result of foreigners relocating here. Only much later, after Thais had been exposed
to the model, did some of them venture out to start their own sushi and Italian restaurants.
The fact of the matter is that none of the foreigners we are talking
about here ever steal jobs from a Thai. In fact, in order
to procure the necessary work permits for himself, the foreigner is
required to hire so many Thais first, usually at a ratio of 4 Thais to
one foreigner. Foreigners, by law, have to create jobs for
Thais. A Thai setting up a business in the USA, on the other hand,
would not be required to hire a single American citizen as long as all
those he did hire had valid American green cards. Even when the
foreigner sets up a lifestyle business like a bar, he is not stealing
the livelihood off Thais and must legally have so many Thai hires on the
That logic in mind, the Thai government still does not care that you're
coming here to bring some capital and possibly skills to their economy.
They will not do much to get you here or keep you here. Expect lots of paperwork and needless expenses.
To be fair to Thailand, this attitude is prevalent throughout Asia.
For most of recent history, Asian nations have been lands which exported
labor, not imported it. To make up for a decline in birth rates,
the richer Asian nations of South Korea and Japan have been importing
labor to fill low wage factory and maid positions, but this is done so
reluctantly. Few are actively encouraging foreigners to develop
small-scale businesses in their homelands. All, including
Thailand, seem to welcome the multinational expanding its business into
Thailand presents itself as an unusual case in Asia. It is estimated
that 100,000 foreigners live in the Kingdom. How many of these are
legal migrants from the Middle East and neighboring countries and how
many are officially tourists but living her perpetually is unclear.
But on top of those resident here, you have another 14m foreign visits
annually, a huge amount of tourist visits per capita, and more so than
any other nation if you exclude city-states (Singapore and Hong Kong)
from the tally. It, therefore, becomes feasible for a foreigner to
set up a business and make a living with a business that caters strictly
to his fellow nationals and not to Thais at all.