A nurse prepares a Covid-19 vaccine for use at Bang Sue Central Station which is currently serving as a venue for mass vaccinations during the Covid-19 pandemic. Nutthawat Wicheanbut
The Omicron Covid-19 variant will form part of a “big wave” posing a great challenge to industrial operators who need nothing but urgent adjustment to the rapid changes of the world, says the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI).
Besides the highly contagious virus which caused many European countries to reinstate strict measures to curb disease transmission, digital disruption, climate change, an ageing society and conflicts between giant economies will continue to keep manufacturers anxious and busy in 2022 and following years, said Kriengkrai Thiennukul, vice-chairman of the FTI.
“These factors are like a big wave that can come crashing against the Thai industrial sector,” he said.
The Covid-19 pandemic already affected some industries, including aviation and hospitality, while providing good opportunities for businesses such as healthcare and electronics, said Mr Kriengkrai.
Omicron will remain a risk factor for business people who have to learn to live with it by adjusting their work plans.
Growing concerns over global warming, believed by experts as a more worrying threat than Covid-19, will also gain momentum.
Global campaigns to reduce carbon dioxide is leading the European Union to consider imposing a carbon border adjustment mechanism, or CBAM, which is aimed at imposing charges on manufacturers who do not adopt technology that is good to the world’s climate.
A nurse prepares the Covid-19 vaccine for use at Bang Sue Central Station which is currently serving as a venue for mass vaccinations during the Covid-19 pandemic. Nutthawat Wicheanbut
Steel, aluminium, electricity generation, fertiliser and cement are five industries targeted by CBAM. Supply chains related to these businesses will see the impact in the near future, said Mr Kriengkrai.
“Thai manufacturers must follow the carbon neutrality campaign or see their exports affected by new international trade rules,” he said.
The Thai government aims to achieve carbon neutrality — a balance between carbon dioxide and absorption — by 2050.
The ageing society is also causing more worries over a decrease in the number of workers and will lead to new changes in businesses to better serve elderly people, said Mr Kriengkrai.
The number of people aged over 60 will make up 30% of the population of 66 million in 2041.
To drive the economy, the government needs to import more migrant workers under memoranda of understanding made with neighbouring countries.
Digital disruption is also a challenge urging factory operators to modernise their manufacturing, said Mr Kriengkrai.
According to the Industry Ministry, 61% of domestic industries are at the Industry 2.0 level, which focuses on productivity and considerable production capacity, but the government wants to achieve the Industry 4.0 goal, which encourages manufacturers to apply digital technology and data analysis to manufacturing.
Mr Kriengkrai also said businesses still need to keep a watch on international conflicts, notably the US-China trade war which affects the global economy.