Mysterious Thai employment statistics puzzle Scandinavians

How many Thais travel to Scandinavia for work and where? It depends on who you ask. There are big differencies between numbers given by Thai authorities and those from the Scandinavian embassies in Thailand.
     When Thai workers turn to Scandinavia for jobs, most opt for Denmark, according to official statistics from the Thailand Overseas Employment Administration, TOEA, regarding Thais that have applied for permits to work abroad.
     TOEA is a government agency under the Department of Employment, DOE.
Its responsibilities are: to administrate Thai workers going overseas, centralise overseas employment information, protect rights and benefits for overseas Thai workers, promote and develop overseas labour opportunities for Thai workers and provide overseas employers needs with suitable experienced Thai workers.
     All according to TOEA’s website at http://www.overseas.doe.go.th
This year alone have 389 Thais, up to the end of April, applied at TOEA for permits to work in Denmark while only nine have done so for Sweden and just one for Norway.
     “Our statistics represent applications. We do not know from them how many that left for the countries mentioned in the applications,” says an official at TOEA to Scandasia.
     Judging by the considerable paperwork required to apply for a TOEA permit it is however unlikely that anyone would amass that documentation and file in the necessary forms just for fun.
     Still there is considerable discrepancy between TOEA numbers and those from the Scandinavian embassies in Thailand, showing actual work visas issued.
Denmark has issued just over 300 work – and study – visas per year the last three years for Thais. That number includes Thais who left for family reunion in Denmark and thus get a work permit automatically.
     That while Thai TOEA statistics point at much higher Denmark bound numbers for 2002 and 2003 and much less 2001: 648, 896 and 18 respectively.
     Can you explain the discrepancies and have you ever had any contacts with TOEA/DOE prior to issuing visas?
     “The answer is no on both questions. I have no clue,” says Ms Ingrid Ballaux Seidel at the consular section of Denmark’s embassy in Bangkok.
     Now, if we go to the local statistics of Sweden bound Thai workers, the numbers are much lower than the actual work visas issued by Sweden’s embassy in Bangkok.
     The Swedish numbers, not including family reunion visas, are 51, 74 and 129 for 2001, 2002 and 2003. TOEA reports 13, 16 and 73 permit applications for the same years.
     “I have no explanation,” says Mr Torsten Torstensson, head of the consular section at the Swedish embassy in Bangkok. “And we have never had any contact with TOEA/DOE either.”
     Norway, meanwhile, attracts the lowest number of Thai workers, judging by TOAE/DOE statistics: 13, 11 and 11 for 2001, 2003 and 2003.
     A comparison on actual Norwegian visas issued was not available instantly, but it is low, confirms Mr Bjorn Berkaas, Consul at Norway’s embassy in Bangkok.
     “We too never have any communication to or from Thai authorities before issuing visas,” adds Bjorn Berkaas.
     To view TOEA statistics, please visit

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