Labour activists have asked the Social Security Office (SSO) to use profits from the kingdom’s welfare scheme to provide quick loans to workers affected by COVID-19’s economic impact.
“Most employees and members of the Social Security Fund (SSF) are affected by COVID-19,” Manas Kosol, president of the Confederation of Thai Labour, said on Friday during an SSF seminar in Bangkok.
“Some need to pay mortgages and for cars, and they need quick loans,” he said, adding that without swift loans from the government, some workers would fall victim to loan sharks.
He said the SSO should allocate some SSF profits to provide special loans to subscribers who need cash during the dire economic conditions.
The office could use part of its 2.2-trillion-baht fund to provide loans to employees, he said, adding workers can return the money by having their salaries automatically deducted each month.
Narong Rattananukul, a senator and member of the House subcommittee tasked with studying the feasibility of loans being provided in the labour sector, agreed at the seminar that the SSO should allocate some of its profits to fund the social cause.
Prasan Tanprasert, president of the Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand, said such loans could be beneficial if workers were not required to pay high interest rates.
Kirida Bhaopichitr, an economic researcher at the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI), cautioned that the loan proponents must consider the notion that the SSF will face financial shortages within three decades.
This is because it will need to pay a growing number of retirees and will have fewer subscribers, she said.
“The SSF has to create a good system to encourage your members to send money to the fund,” Ms Bhaopichitr told the seminar attendants.
Pitsamai Nithipaiboon, deputy secretary-general of the SSO, recognised there have been calls for the SSF to help struggling subscribers amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Yes, this issue takes time and needs laws to be revised,” Ms Nithipaiboon said.
She said the office will study a proposal for the new loan policy.
She didn’t say when or whether or not it will decide to go through with it.
As of now, the office has allocated 30 billion baht for loans to help employers but these loans are arranged via state banks, and employers need to provide collateral.
A total of 104 employers have applied for loans worth 551 million baht.