July 20, 2002
Yet another sign of the confidence returning to Thailand is in the increase of new graduates finding jobs - many before completing their courses. The devil of the Thailand 1977 crisis - the construction and building industries has now turned angel, providing more jobs for Thailand's young professional architects in a domestic economy on the upswing.
The Bangkok Post reported today on the Chulalongkorn University Architecture faculty graduation and the upbeat mood with many already holding job tickets. It is in marked contrast to the previous four years, when graduates left the hallowed halls to a dismal job market.
The state of the construction industry was perhaps the most visible symbol of the Thailand economic crisis of 1977. Property speculation and easy loans were a key component of a speculative bubble economy that was clearly unsustainable. Overnight, the construction industry collapsed. While previously construction cranes dominated the Bangkok skyline, the later years of the 1990s saw a mass of unfinished buildings and "For Sale" signs everywhere.
This latest indicator of a recovery in building and construction is welcome, though Associate Professor Vira Sachakul, Dean of the Faculty of Architecture pointedly stated that "...most new jobs for architects will now largely be for decorating and redesigning renovated buildings...". The typically modest Thai-style statement, while positive, suggested that it's much too early, if ever, to talk of a return to the heady construction industry days of the late 1980s and most of the 1990s. The opportunity now is to remodel what we have, make buildings more efficient, and swear of the excesses of an earlier time. Like people, we need to look carefully at the real value of a building, rather than it's "face". The time when something that "looked good" was enough, no longer is "good enough".
At the same time, construction industry salaries are much lower than during the boom years. In spite of the recovery, said Sachakul, architects are paid much less and receive far fewer benefits than during the construction sector's heyday.
Already there is some concern in government, economic, and financial circles on the current upsurge in consumer spending. In Thailand Chulalongkorn University is traditionally seen as the university of the élite. Yet the lesson from this weeks Architecture Faculty graduation is that a recovery is well under way, but new professionals - the spawn of the next Thai middle class will not get the easy ride of their predecessors of the two previous decades.Published July 20, 2002 08:25 PM in Thailand
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