Once known as Siam, Thailand became a constitutional monarchy in 1932. Thailand is the only Southeast Asian country not colonized by a European power.
Thailand borders the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand. Its bordering countries include Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Malaysia. About twice the size of the U.S. state of Wyoming, the country is 513,120 sq. km in size with a fairly consistent tropical climate.
Manufacturing in Thailand
Thailand is the world’s second largest producer of tungsten and the third largest producer of tin. In addition, manufactured products in Thailand include textiles, beverages, tobacco products, cement, jewelry, appliances, computers automotive parts and agricultural equipment.
As of 2017, industry makes up 36.2% of the country’s GDP and employs 16.7% of the workforce.
Other Important Industries
Tourism, fishing and agriculture are important parts of Thailand’s economy.
Agriculture makes up only 8.2% of the GDP but employs 31.8% of the workforce. Key agricultural commodities include rice, cassava, rubber, corn, sugarcane, coconuts, palm oil, pineapple, livestock and fish. Most of Thailand’s agriculture occurs on small scale farms for local consumption.
Tourism and services account for 55.6% of the GDP and employ 51.5% of the workforce.
Supply Chain Infrastructure for Manufacturing
Thailand’s transportation and communication pathways are well-developed for manufacturing supply chains. The country has a robust network of roads, waterways, rail and air transport, including several major seaports. The communication networks are equally good, with modern high-quality telecommunications and broadband access. The World Bank Doing Business 2020 study ranks Thailand as number 21 overall in the world in feasibility doing business, primarily because of high marks in setting up a business and protections for minority investors.
Thailand’s 63 paved airports moved 2,134,149,001 mt-km of freight in 2015. With its central location in Asia and robust air infrastructure, Thailand is well-positioned to move goods by air.
In addition to its well-developed air freight infrastructure, Thailand also has a modern and robust transportation infrastructure of paved roads, rail and waterways. Major seaports include Bangkok, Map de Phut, Prachuap Port and Si Racha. Laem Chabang, another major seaport, is also a container port, making it easy to ship goods by sea. Manufacturers have many shipping options and can choose the best mode for shipping their products, balancing location, speed and cost.
Thailand’s unemployment rate has been inching down as the government’s economic stimulus efforts have taken effect. As of 2017, the rate was .7%, giving Thailand one of the lowest unemployment rates in the world. Most of the population—about 50.7%—is clustered around Bangkok. More than 92% of the population is literate, and most people complete at least 15 years of schooling.
The workforce is well-educated and highly skilled, but the low unemployment levels can make it difficult to attract or retain people with sought-after manufacturing skills. The working population is aging, adding to the potential skills gap and difficulty in attracting and retaining manufacturing workers.
Thailand ranks number 52 for geographic area but ranks number 20 in the world for the size of its GDP. The 2017 estimated GDP is $1.236 trillion, between Australia at $1.248 trillion and Egypt at $1.204 trillion. Its estimated GDP growth is about 3.9% annually. Business laws are clear-cut, making Thailand an attractive location for manufacturers.
In 2017, Thailand ranked number 21 in the world for exports, having exported about $235.1 billion worth of goods. Primary trading partners include China, the U.S., Japan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Australia and Malaysia. Primary commodities include automobiles and parts, computers, jewelry and gemstones, ethylene polymers, refined fuels, integrated circuits, chemicals, rice, fish, rubber, sugar, cassava, poultry, machinery, iron and steel.
Thailand imported $203.2 billion in 2017, making it number 25 in the category. Primary categories of imports include machinery, crude oil, chemicals, iron, steel, integrated circuits, automobile parts, jewelry, silver and gold bars, computers, household appliances, soybeans, wheat, cotton and dairy products. The primary commodities included manufactured goods, machinery, fuels and food products. Primary import partners include China, Japan, the U.S. and Malaysia.
Thailand’s latest constitution was ratified in 2016 and signed into law in 2017. In the years since 2005, Thailand has endured much political unrest including a military coup in 2006. Currently, the Royal Thai Army General Prayut Chan-ocha serves as the Prime Minister and the King is Maha Vajiralongkorn. Thailand has also undergone periods of unrest due to ethno-nationalist insurgents, particularly in the southern provinces.
Total taxes equal 29.5% of profit percent of the GDP, and most make 21 payments per year to various entities. Corporate taxes are equal to 20% of taxable profit. In addition, companies pay 5% to cover employer paid social security, 3.3% for business specific taxes, 2% on property transfers and 12.5% in property taxes. Many companies find it takes about 229 hours to compute and manage the various taxes.
Getting Down to Business
Doing business in Thailand can be profitable because of the ease of setting up and running a business and the educated workforce. Thailand’s economy is one of the largest and strongest in the world, and its centralized location makes it ideal for manufacturing and supply chain operations. Because Thailand trades with all parts of the globe, QAD Internationalization can be critical to helping companies with tax and business challenges, and QAD CEBOS EQMS can help support quality initiatives while QAD Manufacturing adapts to any style of manufacturing.
How would you describe the state of Manufacturing in Thailand? Learn more about manufacturing and doing business in other great countries around the world.