Thailand is a developing country that has achieved remarkable economic growth over the last four decades. Its rapid progress in social and economic development led the country to move from a low-income categorization to an upper-middle income economy in 2011. With economic growth also came the reduction of the poverty rate, from 67 percent in 1986 to 7.2 percent in 2015. Still, approximately 7.1 million people are living in poverty, and 80 percent of these people are living in rural areas. Discussed below are the main causes of poverty in Thailand.
Leading Causes of Poverty in Thailand
One of the most recent causes of poverty in Thailand is that economic growth has slowed down, even though it used to be the key driver of poverty reduction in the past. Thailand’s average annual economic growth rate was 7.5 percent from 1960 to 1996 and five percent in the years following the Asian financial crisis, which generated millions of jobs that contributed to the alleviation of a significant amount of poverty in the country. However, GDP growth has stalled in the past few years, recording less than one percent in 2014, and approximately three percent in 2015 and 2016.
Inequality between the rural and urban regions also continues to function as one of the major causes of poverty in Thailand. Inequality exists among various sectors, the most prominent being education. Thailand’s northeastern population is especially much less educated and more economically disadvantaged than in other parts of the country. In 2010, the Office of the Basic Education Commission stated in its assessment report that the number of schools failing to meet the required standards was much higher in the northern and southern provinces than in Thailand’s other regions. Because of the worsening disparity, many have brought up the need for a drastic reform that allows for more decentralization of the educational system.
However, the reality is bleak. In March 2016, the military regime used its special powers under Section 44 of the interim charter to modify the recruitment and command structure of the public education system back to the old top-down hierarchy.
These are the main causes of poverty in Thailand. The Thai government must succeed in boosting economic growth and reforming the education system, as both will be critical to the country’s elimination of poverty in the future.
– Minh Joo Yi