COVID-19 in Thailand
COVID-19 and the economic consequences of its spread have caused greater levels of poverty in Thailand since 2020. Reports determined that the COVID-19 pandemic plunged almost 800,000 people into poverty in 2020. The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Thailand has primarily manifested as a spike in unemployment. By spring of 2021, Thailand’s job market had 710,000 fewer jobs compared to the previous year. The pandemic also adversely affected tourism flow to the nation, which accounts for about a fifth of GDP and 20% of employment. Thailand’s economy and poverty levels have not experienced such a negative impact since the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997.

Government Initiatives to Mitigate Poverty

The government’s initiative, however, in responding to this crisis has somewhat curbed the pandemic’s potential for further devastation. Authorities were quick to introduce quarantine measures that were effective in containing the virus during most of 2020. Though several waves of infections have exacerbated the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Thailand, the policy packages were effective in creating fiscal stimulus.

The support ranged from financial assistance for debtors to health-related spending for affected households, including those outside the social security system. Simulations suggest that more than 780,000 additional people could have fallen into poverty in 2020 if the government had not bolstered social support.

Thailand’s Continued Alleviation of Poverty

Thailand’s efficient response to the pandemic is impressive, but not surprising. Since 1988, the country has reduced its poverty levels from 65.2% to 6.2% in 2019, according to the World Bank. Its most effective initiative was to scale up cash transfer programs such that it became one of the largest scale fiscal responses to COVID-19 in the world.

“The crisis in 2020 demonstrated Thailand’s ability to leverage its robust and universal digital ID, sophisticated and interoperable digital platform and a number of administrative databases to filter eligibility for new cash transfer programs,” said Francesca Lamanna, the Senior Economist at the World Bank.

The Current Status of Poverty Levels in Thailand

While the government has responded relatively well, the country continues to struggle as it enters the fourth wave of COVID-19. The official unemployment rate was 2% in the first quarter of 2021 due to COVID-19, with the loss of jobs most concentrated in the services sector. On the one hand, slow vaccination rollout and widespread doubt seem to be stalling recovery. On the other, some infected individuals living below the poverty line may go so far as to violate quarantine rules in order to continue earning much-needed income.

The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Thailand and its economic dependence on contact-intensive sectors means the continuing waves of infection prolong unemployment, with financially vulnerable groups bearing a disproportionate burden of economic insecurity.

Volunteer Workers Spearhead Poverty Aid Missions

In response to these conditions, the number of volunteers in Thailand has also been surging. Bangkok Community Help is one such organization. It has grown to more than 400 participants since its founding early in the pandemic in 2020. Greg Lange and Friso Poldervaart are two restaurant owners that spearheaded the community initiative after neighbors approached them to inquire if they could use their empty restaurant kitchens to prepare hot meals.

While the scale has transformed considerably, Bangkok Community Help’s main objective remains to assist vulnerable sections of Bangkok through volunteer and donation initiatives. “After [last April and May], we decided to focus more on more long-term projects, like building houses for people, turning a garbage dump into a park, and teaching kids,” Lange and Poldervaart told TimeOut.

Donations vary in scale and source. Individuals may hand out meals they prepared themselves to hungry construction workers, while foreign aid initiatives fund larger-scale operations such as survival packages of preserved goods. Australian Aid paid for rice recently distributed outside of Bangkok’s main port facilities through the Australian Government Aid Program. The program provides small grants in support of local, non-governmental organizations in Thailand.

The New Zealand – Thai Chamber of Commerce, an organization dedicated to promoting commerce between Thailand and New Zealand, donated apples. These organizations have even employed volunteers to bring oxygen tanks to the homes of the infected when hospitals were overcrowded, in the hopes of keeping them alive until a hospital bed becomes available. Bangkok Community Help continues to inspire individual and government action through its aid, opening aid centers and converting unused schools and auditoriums into treatment centers.

Future Possibilities

Looking towards the future of COVID-19’s impact on poverty in Thailand, there are different projections. The devastation of the pandemic is a large-scale issue that called for radical measures, but the methods of mitigation employed may be useful in shifting political focus towards strengthening social support systems in the future. These circumstances have the potential to catalyze an economic reform in Thailand, such that its industries can become more digital.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the authorities see this as an opportunity to transform tourism from low-cost, high-density travel, to high-end, low-density travel. This would allow for other domestic industries to flourish without wreaking havoc on the country’s economy. It may also be more ecologically friendly, offering greater protection of natural resources on which the tourism industry is dependent. All of these factors have the potential to gradually reduce the number of people living below the poverty line, by strengthening Thailand’s social and fiscal fiber.

– Arahi Fletcher
Photo: Unsplash

how-small-town-rotary-clubs-fight-global-poverty
The rotary sign is a common sight alongside the parks and roads that rotary clubs maintain. However, what many people may not realize is that even the smallest rotary clubs are part of an international organization that unites 1.2 million Rotarians across 35,000 clubs worldwide. These rotary clubs contribute to Rotary International’s efforts to serve communities, beginning more than 110 years ago. Small-town rotary clubs fight global poverty by supporting international service programs, such as Rotary Community Corps, Rotaract and Rotary Peace Fellows. These programs teach leadership skills and address global humanitarian issues. As a result, small-town rotary clubs’ service activities promote world peace, fight diseases, protect the environment, provide clean water, support women and children and grow developing economies. Here is how three small-town rotary clubs are fighting global poverty.

How 3 Small-Town Rotary Clubs are Fighting Global Poverty

  1. Rotary Club of Nome. Supporting its townspeople for 75 years, the Rotary Club of Nome sets a rugged example of how small-town rotary clubs fight global poverty. The club’s humanitarian activities include a 2014 collaboration with the Rotary Club of Central Tandag to provide medical supplies, hygiene supplies, clothing and food to 49 indigenous families living in a remote village in Surigao Del Sur, Philippines. The club also contributes yearly to ShelterBox, an international disaster relief charity established in 2000 that provides emergency aid to families that disaster or conflict displaced. ShelterBox aid includes emergency shelter kits containing materials such as tarps, mortar and tent pegs as well as cooking tools, solar lights and learning games for children. In an interview with The Borgen Project, Nome Rotary Club President Adam R. Lust told The Borgen Project that the club is working on a proposal to fund a month of food resources for the village of Masai Mara, Kenya. Lust hopes the project is just the beginning and that it will lead to a more extensive, sustainable program in the future.
  2. Rotary Club of Boothbay Harbor. This club has 70 active community leaders committed to humanitarianism, with 15% of the club’s fundraising efforts going toward supporting international projects. The Boothbay Haborclub is a long-standing supporter of Safe Passage, a nonprofit school that creates educational opportunities for children and families who live and work at the Guatemala City dump in Guatemala. The club also helps to support Thai Daughters, an organization that “provides education, safe shelter and emotional support to girls” in Northern Thailand who are at risk of becoming sex trafficking victims. The club also supports Healthy Kids/Brighter Future, a program that Communities Without Borders runs. It provides access to education to Zambian children, with teachers who have training in first-line medical care. In addition, the Rotary Club of Boothbay Harbor provides support to Partners in World Health, PolioPlus and Crutches4Africa, among other organizations.
  3. Rotary Club of Crested Butte. This club puts an emphasis on benefiting youth. The club’s international outreach activities include supplying “English and Khmer language books” to Cambodian children to improve literacy rates. Additionally, the club sent “learning toys & games to Burmese refugee centers in Mae Sot, Thailand” to improve refugee children’s education in a stimulating way.

How to Help Small-Town Rotary Clubs Fight Global Poverty

One of the ways to help small-town rotary clubs fight global poverty is to become a member. Rotary membership is “by invitation only.” An individual can receive an invitation to join a club by someone who is already a member or one can attend a meeting as a guest and fill out a membership application form. If one is unsure of which club to join, Rotary International’s membership page has a questionnaire to assist in this regard.

However, one does not have to become a Rotary member to support a local rotary club. There are many opportunities to volunteer services, from canned food drives and park maintenance to tax preparation and building houses. Rotary International is part of a searchable database that helps potential volunteers find projects within their respective locations.

Whether one becomes a member, volunteers locally or travels abroad for one of rotary’s many international service activities, it is important to remember that every humanitarian effort of a rotary club contributes to reducing global poverty and empowering the most disadvantaged people at every corner of the globe. Every individual can help small-town rotary clubs fight global poverty simply by involving themselves in their initiatives.

– Jenny Rice
Photo: Flickr

Taxi Gardens in Thailand
Since January 13, 2020, COVID-19 played a significant role in disrupting Thailand’s economy. Financial hardship in Thailand was undeniable. The World Bank has indicated that if the country’s government had not introduced socially and fiscally restorative programs, about 700,000 citizens would have fallen into poverty. While Thailand’s economy has essentially stabilized, one occupation has struggled to land back on its feet–or, behind the wheel. This occupation’s struggle led to the incredible innovation of taxi gardens in Thailand.

The Effects of COVID-19 on Taxi Services

Along with the curfew implemented on April 3, 2020, Thailand made multiple attempts to control the spread of COVID-19. However, because everyone stayed at home working or learning remotely, taxicab drivers experienced a slowed revenue stream. Because no one traveled, these drivers could not afford the daily payments of their vehicles. Instead, they used their funds to take care of their families. As a result of COVID-19, financial hardship in Thailand certainly impacted the economy and put several businesses in financial jeopardy. Taxicab owners suffered a significant dwindling in their source income, leaving them to make a tough decision regarding their cars.

Because of the decline in fares, taxicab drivers from the Ratchapruk and Bovorn Taxi Cooperatives could not afford to make payments for their vehicles. The corporation’s executive, Thapakorn Assawalertkul, described how drivers left their cars on the streets even after the vehicles’ daily payments dropped to $9.09. Thailand’s government provided financial assistance to businesses, but not cab drivers. Cab drivers sacrificed their livelihoods and received little to no government assistance during the pandemic. The government introduced specific aid programs for many corporations, such as lengthening credit for hotel operators to deter them from liquidating their assets. However, there is still an evident disparity in financial stability for other livelihoods.

The Benefits of Taxi Gardens in Thailand

A few workers from these taxi companies started turning the standing vehicles into sustainable gardens. The crops, such as string beans and tomatoes, grow from the roof of these idled vehicles. As of September 22, 2021, cab drivers transformed approximately 300 cars into planters. The taxi gardens provide food for the drivers and their families to make up for their lack of revenue. They also serve an artistic purpose. Taxi gardens in Thailand are symbolic of the unfortunate circumstances of the nation’s taxicab industry in the wake of the pandemic. The companies’ staff tend the gardens in turns, a poignant reminder of their concern for their lost livelihoods and lack of societal or governmental initiative.

A Symbol of Resilience

The artistic and overarching theme of unity explored with this collage of taxicab crops is impressive. Taxi gardens in Thailand illustrate the beauty that comes from a concerned and considerate community. It is also worth noting the sustainable usage of these idled vehicles. However, many workers who tend to these gardens explain that they would like to see the government play a more active role in alleviating their financial stress and stagnance. With such an eye-grabbing display as this, it may not be long before Thailand’s taxicab drivers receive proper attention as a symbol of financial hardship in Thailand.

– Maia Nuñez
Photo: Flickr

Upcycled Water Bottles
The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed that, since January 3, 2020, there have been more than 1.6 million official cases of COVID-19 in Thailand. While the country has around 70 million people, the data demonstrate a significant rate of infection. As of October 4, 2021, approximately 55 million of Thailand’s citizens have had vaccines administered to them. Thankfully, this is not the only good news to come out of the country’s battle with the COVID-19 pandemic. The textile company Thai Taffeta has recently come up with a sustainable means of fighting off the virus, involving upcycled water bottles.

Reduce: How Thai Taffeta PPE Came to Be

During the height of the pandemic, personal protective equipment (PPE) in Thailand was alarmingly scarce. This shortage increased medical staff’s risk of contracting COVID-19 while also exposing them to other hazardous diseases and potential injuries. At the same time, as the Southeast Asian country with the second-largest economy, Thailand’s consumerism creates a lot of plastic waste. When the general rate of infection of COVID-19 in Thailand grew and protection gear started dwindling in hospitals, a textile company based in Bangkok introduced a new, life-saving technology. As of September 3, 2021, Thai Taffeta has been using the nation’s overabundance of plastic waste — mostly upcycled water bottles — as an advantage, subsequently saving lives and helping the environment.

Reuse: How Thai Taffeta Makes its PPE

According to Thai Taffeta, it takes about 18 upcycled water bottles to make one PPE suit. Thus far, Thai Taffeta has collected about 18 million plastic bottles to create personal protective equipment. The process is relatively simple and involves reducing the typical resources necessary for making protective gear and breaking down the plastic waste into malleable filaments that then get upcycled. Donated fibers are combined with the upcycled material. The product is the PPE necessary for doctors and medical staff to better equip themselves with while facing the threat of infection.

Thai Taffeta’s executive vice president, Supoj Chaiwilal, said that the fabrics are “made of 100% recycled PET yarns to produce Level 3 PPE coveralls.” This particular level of protection ensures that the suits are water-resistant and can even keep out blood and viruses from the external environment. Manufacturers dye some of the gear a reddish-orange color for a select group of the PPE’s recipients: Buddhist monks.

Recycle: Accessibility of PPE

While Buddhist monks have access to this textile innovation, needing it to conduct cremation processes safely, it is also available to high-risk patients. Though Thailand’s response to the pandemic was relatively strong, it was not without weaknesses. Had the government not responded to the economic crisis with relief measures, the poverty rate in Thailand would have increased to an estimated 7.4% in the span of one year. However, the 6.2% of Thailand’s population living under the poverty line, who are more susceptible to infection and fiscal devastation, could certainly benefit from a maintained social protection program implemented by the country’s government. Therefore, the introduction of sustainable personal protective equipment in Thailand is critical for health safety in the fight against COVID-19. PPE to more individuals better allows for a deceased spread from continuing to permeate and affect the lives of low-income families.

Looking Forward

Thai Taffeta’s website boasts, “All for one[,] the journey of sustainability.” Indeed, the upcycled plastic waste personal protective equipment in Thailand is an innovation many people marvel at. Operating in a cyclically economic mode, the broken down plastic serves to benefit the environment and reduce the number of resources needed to create new goods while also combatting the rate of infection. The slogan also touches on the immense value of a unified fight against the virus, pressing for eradicating disparate circumstances while simultaneously urging the upper classes to be considerate in their consumption and contribute funding toward these suits.

– Maia Nuñez
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy in Thailand
Championed as a success of development in the region, Thailand has achieved upper-middle-income country status due to a steadily increasing economy and substantial reductions in poverty. Thailand’s energy consumption has grown rapidly in line with this development. It has seen an 18% increase in energy consumption in the last decade. The industrial and transport sectors account for the majority of national energy consumption. Furthermore, Thailand strives to meet its energy demands through the use of emergent renewable energy technologies. 

A Burgeoning Industry

The country has increasingly relied on renewable energy sources to ensure that its steady development is sustainable. Renewable energy accounts for a whopping 10% of the country’s energy usage. This number is comparable to the U.S. rate of 12% of total energy consumption from renewable sources. Thailand is on track to surpass the U.S. in just 10 years. Renewable energy in Thailand comes from diverse sources, relying equally on hydropower, solar, biomass and wind-generated power.

Thailand imports much of its renewable energy technology from overseas. However, future emphasis on domestic manufacturing of these technologies would create jobs. This emphasis will eventually position Thailand as a world leader in the use of renewable energy. The biofuel industry alone employs more than 102,000 people in Thailand, making Thailand the fifth largest employer in the liquid biofuels industry internationally. Thailand’s unemployment rate is meager at just 1%, but a large portion of these jobs are low-paying. Renewable energy jobs have the potential to create higher earners and address Thailand’s 10% poverty rate.

How Energy Access Alleviates Poverty

In addition to the thousands of jobs in the renewable energy sector, renewables are becoming more cost-effective than other sources like natural gas, so that more people have access to cheaper electricity than ever before. In fact, the World Bank states that nearly 100% of Thailand’s population has access to electricity, up from 82% in 2000.

However, this universal access to electricity comes at a cost: energy consumption makes up 10% of household spending per month, which qualifies Thailand as energy-poor. Paired with the fact that the cost of natural gas has been increasing recently, renewables are the affordable choice for decreasing the financial burden of energy on individual households.

Electricity access is vital when it comes to improving the living conditions of those in poverty. Electricity can enhance quality of life by providing refrigeration of food and increasing educational outcomes due to lighting at night, among other benefits.

The Future of Renewable Energy in Thailand

As Thailand’s demand for energy increases, it is essential that its development stems from a sustainable core. The Thai Ministry of Energy set a goal to reach 30% reliance on renewable energy by 2036. This would save an estimated $8 billion annually when considering the environmental and health costs of fossil fuel consumption.

Thailand must keep in mind the needs of its low-income citizens as it continues to integrate sustainable energy into its power grid. Further, renewable energy in Thailand should not be the only focus of sustainability initiatives. The focus should also be on reducing pollution and carbon emissions. With these accomplishments, Thailand is in an excellent position to secure a better economic future for its citizens.

– Helen Spyropoulos
Photo: Flickr

Progress Against HIV/AIDS in ThailandIn the last decade, Thailand has made significant efforts to reduce HIV/AIDS transmission and deaths, resulting in a dramatic decrease in one of the world’s most stigmatized diseases and an effective model for other countries to follow.

HIV — first identified in 1981 — is a viral infection that attacks the human immune system and spreads through bodily fluids. If left untreated, it can cause AIDS, a condition with which most people only survive a few years. There is no cure for HIV/AIDS, but there are treatments such as antiretroviral therapy that can keep the infection from progressing to AIDS.

HIV/AIDS in Thailand

The first case of HIV/AIDS in Thailand was in 1985, and the country continues to have one of the highest rates of the disease in Asia and the Pacific. An estimated 470,000 people are living with HIV/AIDS in Thailand, and 14,000 AIDS-related deaths occurred in the country in 2019.

Like in other countries, the Thai populations most at risk for HIV/AIDS are those living in poverty or otherwise on the margins of society. These circumstances can reduce access to healthcare and testing, which is made worse by the heavy stigmatization of the disease.

Progress in Thailand

However, the Thai government has made substantial progress against the virus after making it one of the country’s prioritized health initiatives. In 2006, Thailand incorporated HIV services into its universal healthcare system, and now testing and treatment are free for anyone who might need them.

Awareness campaigns have also had a large impact on the state of HIV/AIDS in Thailand. The government has partnered with civil society groups to increase public knowledge both about the disease and preventative measures. Another important aspect of these partnerships has been specific efforts to reduce the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.

Since 2010, the rate of new infections in Thailand has dropped 65%, and AIDS-related deaths have fallen 44%. These improvements have directly resulted from the efforts to increase awareness and improve access to healthcare and testing. Of the Thai population living with HIV, 80% are on antiretroviral treatment, and 78% have suppressed viral loads preventing the infection from progressing to AIDS.

Thailand is also the first country that has nearly eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS. Now, less than 2% of children test positive for HIV after being exposed. This has significantly reduced the number of children who are infected and need antiretroviral care.

Future Goals

With all of this progress, the government is in a strong position to continue reducing the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Thailand. The country still has not met UNAIDS’ 90-90-90 targets where 90% of those HIV positive are aware of their status, 90% are on antiretroviral treatment and 90% have suppressed viral loads. However, Thailand’s efforts remain an important international model of effective policy against HIV/AIDS.

Through its focus on decreasing the number of new infections and improving access to antiretroviral treatment, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Thailand has decreased. Along with its prioritization of spreading information and awareness about the disease and its transmission, Thailand has created an effective method for tackling HIV/AIDS.

– Nicole Ronchetti
Photo: Flickr

Slavery in the Thai Fishing Industry
With Thailand’s status as one of the world’s largest fishery exporters, the rest of the world is entangled in the industry’s human trafficking and forced labor violations. The spotlight ended up on Thailand in 2015 due to reports of slavery in the Thai fishing industry. In response, there has been movement from world governments and organizations alike towards ending slavery. However, industry workers, mostly poor migrants from Myanmar and Cambodia, continue to suffer.

Slavery Exposed

In June 2014, the story broke that the world’s top four shrimp retailers commissioned Thai fishing boats that supposedly had workers who were human trafficking victims aboard. Further reporting revealed the Thai fishing industry’s extensive misuse of workers. Supposedly, these workers experienced poor working conditions and confinement similar to a prison. In fact, workers were receiving pay below the minimum wage and not obtaining payments on time. Additionally, in extreme cases, reports as of January 2018 have determined that some workers died, suffered beatings or were trafficking victims.

Oceana analyst Lacey Malarky explained the reason for the pattern of human rights abuses in the fishing industry. Malarky said that the decline of global fishing stocks has caused fishing boats to travel further away. This caused “operators [to resort to] illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and human rights abuses to protect costs.” 

Global Response to Slavery in Thailand

In response to reports of slavery in the fishing industry in Thailand, the U.S. reduced Thailand to Tier 3 status in its Trafficking in Persons report. Tier 3 is the lowest status regarding human trafficking that a country can receive. Additionally, the European Commission gave Thailand a “yellow card” and threatened a “red card,” resulting in European Union sanctions.

At the time, the consequences were devastating to Thailand’s fishing industry. The U.S. and European Union are the second and third largest markets for Thai seafood exports. The E.U. imported almost $500 million of Thai seafood in 2016 and the U.S. imported over $28 billion in 2018. 

In response, Thailand’s National Council for Peace and Order made moves to overhaul “fishing industry monitoring, control and management.” New frameworks  say that “teams of officials are now supposed to check fishing boats each time they depart and arrive in port.” Additionally, it made the effort to strengthen its laws and increase penalties if laborers’ rights experienced infringement.

Issues with Enforcement

One primary issue with protecting victimized fishermen is that Thai law does not protect migrant workers. In general, Thailand does not strongly enforce laws that protect workers. A Human Rights Watch report in 2018 found that “Thai inspection frameworks fail to adequately or systematically address issues of forced labor.”

For example, the government introduced a “pink card” registration scheme in 2014. This was to decrease undocumented migrants working in Thailand. However, the initiative has done very little to protect the most vulnerable. The “pink card” monitors and controls workers by occasionally making sure that fishermen match the pink card. This details a specific location and crew manifest of the boat a particular fisherman is on. Critics say that focusing on the “pink card” denies that both documented and undocumented migrants can be victims of exploitation. 

Another issue with intervention is that many poor fishermen agree to mediation and settlements following complaints. This tends to result in laborers being unable to receive the money they have entitlement to while abusive bosses can avoid legal action. The pattern of complaints resulting in settlements causes the continuation of abuse, failing to end slavery in the Thai fishing industry.

Documenting Progress

In the last six years, there have been significant efforts to reduce instances of slavery in the fishing industry. In January 2019, Thailand became the first Asian country to ratify the International Labour Organization Work in Fishing Convention. This is a guide that specifies laws and regulations to improve working conditions in industrial fishing. Additionally, in March 2021, a dozen industry associations in Thailand “signed pacts to rid their supply chains of child and forced labor.”

Seafood Slavery Risk Tool

Developed by Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, Seafood Watch and Liberty Shared, the Risk Tool analyzes risk using both public and non-public information. This is to help businesses “identify the risk of slavery in their supply chains.” The technology continues to evolve. The updates to the Risk Tool will provide businesses with interactive maps. This shows the risk of “forced labor, human trafficking and hazardous child labor” to help businesses make decisions about suppliers.

Global Fishing Watch’s Automatic Identification System

The Global Fishing Watch is an online database tracking fishing ships via an onboard satellite transmitter. This is called the Automatic Identification System, which was originally developed to prevent ship collisions, and now catches vessels engaged in illegal behavior. The system targets ships that need further inspection by collecting data on four points of potentially illegal behavior. The points include whether ships stayed at sea for months, temporarily turned off transmitters to enter marine protected areas, engaged in trans-shipment and avoided strict ports. Using the technology, analysts are hopeful that more justice will be possible for vulnerable, victimized workers.

Reports show that Thailand has made huge steps toward ending the abuse and misuse of workers. However, more is necessary to end slavery in the Thai fishing industry. Through further attention and ongoing attempts to mitigate and bring justice to slave labor in Thailand’s fishing industry, the treatment of laborers in the Thai fishing industry should improve.

Brittany Granquist
Photo: Flickr

Elder Poverty in Thailand
Thailand’s population of senior citizens has been increasing in recent years. Alongside this increase in population size, the percentage of elderly poverty in Thailand is also rising. A decrease in the younger generation’s desire to have children and a lack of retirement incomes have contributed to this poverty increase. Here are eight facts about elderly poverty in Thailand.

8 Facts About Elderly Poverty in Thailand

  1. Less Young People in Thailand are Having Children: Many young Thai people say they are choosing not to have children because starting a family is not affordable. Raising children limits personal freedom and hinders opportunities for career development. As a result, the number of children being born into the “new generation” has decreased.
  2. Fewer Children Increases Poverty: The age that Thai couples are choosing to have children has grown to be older in recent years. Divorce rates in Thailand have also increased. This contributes to elderly poverty because the biggest source of financial security for elders in Thailand is family members, especially children and grandchildren. With fewer children and grandchildren being born, there is a higher risk of poverty for the elderly.
  3. Thai Population Grows Older: Thailand’s population is quickly growing older. According to the World Bank, “the proportion of people older than 60 will increase dramatically in the next 50 years, from 15% in 2010 to 35% in 2060.”
  4. Elderly Poverty is Significant: The poverty rate is higher among the elderly than in the total population. In 2010, 10.9% of people over the age of 60 were impoverished, while only 7.7% of the total population was in poverty.
  5. The Dependency Ratio is Growing: Right now, the dependency ratio in Thailand is 56%. This ratio compares the population of children and the elderly to the number of citizens of working age. By 2070, the World Bank predicts that the dependency ratio will exceed 100%, which means that there will be more people not working than people who are working.
  6. Males Have a Higher Poverty Rate: The poverty rate of males is higher than the poverty rate of females at most ages. This difference is particularly prevalent among those over 70 years old. Additionally, the highest poverty rates overall are children below age 15 and elderly above age 60.
  7. The Elderly Poverty Rate is Growing: Although the number of elders that fall below the poverty line in Thailand is fairly low, the amount of elders close to the poverty line is high. Nearly 18% of the elderly in Thailand are impoverished or vulnerable to poverty.
  8. Thailand is Creating Pension Programs: There are currently eight pension programs in Thailand that are working to lower elder poverty by providing retirement incomes. Despite mandatory pension schemes, approximately two-thirds of Thailand’s employed population is not financially insured. While the Social Security Fund insures private employees and the Government Pension Fund insures government officers, informal sector workers receive minimal financial support.

Elders in Thailand rely on the assistance of their families and pension after retirement. However, the decrease in the nuclear family and the lack of financial insurance are affecting the poverty rate among elders. Pension programs are working to lower the elder poverty rate in Thailand to combat financial reliance on families.

Grace Parker
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Water Management in ThailandThailand is a country known for its many wondrous sights, from its lush beaches to its luxurious temples that scatter the country. Despite these amazing locations that attract tourists is a lesser-known but just as impressive fact. Thailand is currently improving water and sanitation for the benefit of its people. The government in Thailand understands the need for Thai people to have better access to clean water and sanitation. According to a joint report released by the United Nations (U.N.) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2015, Thailand has been able to provide better sanitation for 93% of its population. Additionally, improving water management in Thailand has led to 96% of citizens having reliable drinking water. These results show that the government of Thailand takes water quality and improved sanitation seriously.

Water Management Challenges in Thailand

What makes improving water and sanitation in Thailand difficult is the current challenges of droughts and floods. Flooding takes place in Thailand quite often during the monsoon season when the country receives heavy amounts of rain. Additionally, the overflowing of dams during heavy rains also contributes to flooding.

The government of Thailand plans to deal with these challenges by implementing water management projects in the country’s 25 river basins. The government will work with the communities that live in these areas to prevent further droughts and floods.

The Thai government also plans on making changes to the infrastructure of the country. These changes include improving the transportation system of water throughout the country. It plans on creating more inland and coastal ports to help further this goal and make Thailand a transportation hub.

Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6)

Thailand is strongly committed to SDG 6 of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. The purpose of SDG 6 is to help countries around the world improve water and sanitation. The U.N. notes that issues that come from lack of water resources and sanitation could displace 700 million people by 2030.

Fortunately, Thailand is already delivering on its commitment to SDG 6. The Thai Government’s 2017 Voluntary National Review reports that due to Thai policies and strategies, close to 100% of households have safe drinking water and proper sanitation. Another benefit of clean water and sanitation is that the infant mortality rate has decreased in Thailand. Thanks to improved water and sanitation, people are now less likely to contract a water-borne disease. The city of Bangkok has especially reaped some of the benefits from Thailand’s commitment to SDG 6. Clean and safe water is now so abundant that the average citizen in Bangkok consumes roughly 340.2 liters of water each day, which is more than the overall average of 277.6 liters.

Thanks to the Thai government’s commitment to improving water and sanitation, most of the people of the country are experiencing several benefits that go beyond simply quenching people’s thirst. However, the small number of people who still struggle with water and sanitation need prioritizing. Efficiently managing water and committing to achieving all of the SDG 6 indicators will ensure sustainable progression and development in Thailand.

– Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

Statelessness in Thailand
Thailand has one of the world’s largest populations of stateless people with nearly 500,000 registered in 2020. NGOs and human rights activists believe the true number is much higher at up to 2 million. Statelessness refers to those lacking recognition of citizenship by any country. Without having a nationality, people lack access to basic necessities such as healthcare, education and social security. Here is some information about statelessness in Thailand.

Why Are People Stateless?

The cultural heterogeneity and rugged border regions of Thailand have long allowed indigenous cultures to live outside of the modern nation-state framework. Some stateless groups in Thailand’s border regions actively avoided becoming part of the Thai nation-state. They remained separate to maintain their own unique cultural customs. Discriminatory practices toward ethnic minorities by the ethnic Thais have also played a role in statelessness in Thailand.

Ethnic groups such as the Hmong, Akha, Karen and others are traditionally semi-nomadic and live throughout different Southeast Asian nations. They do not identify with one specific nation. In modern times, borders have become more solidified. The relative autonomy of indigenous cultures has largely existed within international borders. For indigenous children born within the Thai borders, their citizenship ties to their parents. These parents often lack documentation to prove that they were technically born in Thailand, which renders children stateless.

Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Other stateless people in Thailand are refugees from Burmese states just across the border. These refugees have endured decades of armed conflict against the central government. More than 100,000 Karen, Karenni, Shan and other groups arrived in the 1980s and 1990s to refugee camps along the Thai border. They have largely remained in these camps due to instability at home and the Thai government’s unwillingness to grant citizenship. These refugees also lack Burmese citizenship in many cases. With increased political and social instability following the recent 2021 military coup, this protracted refugee crisis will likely persist.

There are also stateless people that others know as the Moken or ‘Sea Gypsies’ in the south of Thailand, along with asylum seekers originating from dozens of countries in the Bangkok metropolitan area. Thai authorities struggle to formulate clear strategies on how to process citizenship requests for the many existing situations. Some can lay claim to ancestry within the modern Thai borders that stretch back hundreds of years. Others are more recent arrivals in need of human rights assistance.

Risk Factors of Statelessness in Thailand

There are innumerable challenges for stateless people in Thailand. Without having Thai citizenship, stateless people cannot travel freely across international borders. As a result, they fear detention and arrest while traveling within Thailand. There are also barriers to accessing legitimate jobs. This puts some at risk of becoming victims of human trafficking in trying to access decent livelihoods.

For young people, the lack of a decent education is a major concern. The Thai government has made an effort to educate all children within its borders, but stateless students are not able to access scholarships for higher education. Lack of access to decent health care and legal representation are other barriers facing stateless people.

Solutions

Since 2016, Thailand has joined one of the central goals of the UNHCR to end statelessness worldwide by 2024 in its #IBelong campaign. The country has taken great efforts to reconfigure citizenship laws to allow tens of thousands to access Thai citizenship in recent years. Leading up to joining the #IBelong campaign, Thailand had loosened citizenship restrictions in 2008 with its amendment of the Thai Nationality Law. Although implementation has been slow, the processing of citizenship claims have ramped up with the help of UNHCR.

There have been highly publicized events uncovering the plight of stateless people, which include the Thai Cave Rescue in 2018, in which several of the rescued soccer team members and their coach were stateless at the time. The Thai government streamlined its citizenship procedures shortly after the rescue operation. The players and their coach had previously not been able to travel freely to play in games outside of their local area.

Increased Awareness

While the sheer number of stateless people in Thailand may make the 2024 deadline to end statelessness difficult to reach, there is more general awareness of the issue. That offers some hope in granting citizenship to large numbers in this population. Much of the recent stateless population is due to conflict in Myanmar, and others should commend Thailand for allowing refugees to remain in relative safety within its borders.

Matthew Brown
Photo: Flickr