Thai authorities are worried about an oversupply of workers going to Sweden this year to pick berries.
Some 5,800 Thais applied for tourist visas to Sweden last month, according to numbers reported by the Swedish embassy in Bangkok to the Foreign Affairs Ministry’s Consular Affairs Department.
Most applicants are believed to be planning to pick wild berries in Sweden, National Human Rights Commission member Parinya Sirisarakan said.
The NHRC subcommittee on labour rights has expressed concerns there will not be enough work for such an unusually high number of applicants, Mr Parinya said.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Department of Employment deputy chief Supat Gukun said: “Many applicants have told the embassy they want to visit their Thai relatives in Sweden.”
Their relatives are mostly wives of Swedish nationals, Mr Supat said. Each of these women is permitted by the Swedish government to sponsor a maximum of three relatives in Thailand to pick berries from this month until September, he said.
Other workers who want to pick berries in Sweden have to apply through four job placement companies, which are preparing to send 3,499 people there this year.
Workers earlier this month called on the Labour Ministry to set a quota for pickers to reduce competition among workers from Thailand and elsewhere.
The number of Thai pickers rose sharply last year to 5,900 from 3,500 in 2008. Many workers were unable to earn enough money from berry picking to cover their expenses and repay debts.
Although the number of workers this year seems set to be high, many pickers remain confident of their prospects.