Thailand only Southeast Asian country with rising poverty rate: World Bank

The number of people living in poverty in Thailand climbed considerably between 2015 and 2018 by almost two million to 6.7 million people, the World Bank said in a new report on inequality in Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy behind Indonesia in terms of GDP.

Overall, the poverty rate in the country rose to 9.8 per cent from 7.2 per cent between 2015 and 2018 mainly owing to weak economic conditions leading to job losses, the bank said in a statement. The World Bank defines the current national poverty line in Thailand at less than 90 baht ($4.30) a day for one person to spend. Thailand is the only Southeast Asian nation to have experienced an increase in poverty since 2000, the report noted.

“Recent poverty trends demonstrate that despite Thailand’s level of economic development, households are still vulnerable to shocks and weak economic conditions,” Birgit Hansl, the World Bank’s country manager for Thailand, noted.

The country of 69 million reduced overall poverty over three decades from more than 65 per cent in 1988, but the trend started to reverse from 2016, data from the report showed. This was mainly due to falling incomes for the bottom 40 per cent of the population between 2015 and 2017. Many of those were laid-off urban workers and rural farming households, the country report found.

Falling incomes, strong currency, political unrest: The ingredients to bust an economy

Thailand has also faced other challenges, including a sustained strong currency which hampered exports, as well as natural disasters and, most recently, the coronavirus outbreak, which is hurting the economically crucial tourism sector. A history of political unrest and military coups has also taken its toll on the economy, with the most recent military intervention having been staged in 2014.

Nearly a third of Thailand’s workforce is in the low-income agricultural sector, which produces and exports commodities such as rice, natural rubber and sugar for global markets but at low productivity levels due to a lack of modernisation and mechanisation, making them prone to crisis.

“To meet Thailand’s aspiration of achieving high-income status, Thai households will need better protection from income shocks such as ill health, job loss and natural disasters,” Hansl said, adding that “it will be equally important to support the creation of more productive and higher-paying jobs.”

Hansel also said Thailand needs to improve access to education for children from lower-income families and policies on safety nets and also create better jobs to address inequality.

The number of people living in poverty in Thailand climbed considerably between 2015 and 2018 by almost two million to 6.7 million people, the World Bank said in a new report on inequality in Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy behind Indonesia in terms of GDP. Overall, the poverty rate in the country rose to 9.8 per cent from 7.2 per cent between 2015 and 2018 mainly owing to weak economic conditions leading to job losses, the bank said in a statement. The World Bank defines the current national poverty line in Thailand at less than 90 baht ($4.30) a day for...

The number of people living in poverty in Thailand climbed considerably between 2015 and 2018 by almost two million to 6.7 million people, the World Bank said in a new report on inequality in Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy behind Indonesia in terms of GDP.

Overall, the poverty rate in the country rose to 9.8 per cent from 7.2 per cent between 2015 and 2018 mainly owing to weak economic conditions leading to job losses, the bank said in a statement. The World Bank defines the current national poverty line in Thailand at less than 90 baht ($4.30) a day for one person to spend. Thailand is the only Southeast Asian nation to have experienced an increase in poverty since 2000, the report noted.

“Recent poverty trends demonstrate that despite Thailand’s level of economic development, households are still vulnerable to shocks and weak economic conditions,” Birgit Hansl, the World Bank’s country manager for Thailand, noted.

The country of 69 million reduced overall poverty over three decades from more than 65 per cent in 1988, but the trend started to reverse from 2016, data from the report showed. This was mainly due to falling incomes for the bottom 40 per cent of the population between 2015 and 2017. Many of those were laid-off urban workers and rural farming households, the country report found.

Falling incomes, strong currency, political unrest: The ingredients to bust an economy

Thailand has also faced other challenges, including a sustained strong currency which hampered exports, as well as natural disasters and, most recently, the coronavirus outbreak, which is hurting the economically crucial tourism sector. A history of political unrest and military coups has also taken its toll on the economy, with the most recent military intervention having been staged in 2014.

Nearly a third of Thailand’s workforce is in the low-income agricultural sector, which produces and exports commodities such as rice, natural rubber and sugar for global markets but at low productivity levels due to a lack of modernisation and mechanisation, making them prone to crisis.

“To meet Thailand’s aspiration of achieving high-income status, Thai households will need better protection from income shocks such as ill health, job loss and natural disasters,” Hansl said, adding that “it will be equally important to support the creation of more productive and higher-paying jobs.”

Hansel also said Thailand needs to improve access to education for children from lower-income families and policies on safety nets and also create better jobs to address inequality.

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