Why is Thailand PoorEven though Thailand is considered a development success story, it is still in the category of a developing nation. Between the 1980s and 2015, poverty in Thailand has greatly declined from 67 percent to 7.2 percent. However, the country’s growth slowed between 2005 and 2015 to an average of 3.5 percent. Currently, 10.5 percent of Thailand’s population is living below the poverty line.

Why is Thailand poor? The reason that Thailand remains poor is imbalanced development. Due to the critical poverty rate of Thailand in the 1960s, emphasis was put on industrialization to boost the economy. This industrialization caused rapid economic growth and poverty reduction, but development was not widespread. To support industrial production, resources were centralized to the capital and surrounding urban areas, thus depriving rural areas. Because of this, 80 percent of poor people living in rural areas as of 2014.

Concentration of development in urban areas means a lack of investment in rural Thailand. For example, Bangkok houses only 10 percent of the population, but it contributes more than 50 percent of Thailand’s GDP. Highlighting the inequality, rural areas have a poverty rate of 13.9 percent compared to 7.7 percent in urban areas.

In answering the question “Why is Thailand poor?” one must look at the disparity between development in urban and rural areas. Poor people living in rural areas have very limited access to public services that could help them out of poverty. To gain access, rural poor persons must be able to afford both the service and transport to urban areas.

Education is an example. Many rural poor people cannot afford education more than the six years of compulsory schooling. The enrollment rate for “tertiary education” was reported as 18 percent in rural areas compared to 39.5 percent in urban. Due to lack of education, many rural poor people are under-qualified for higher paying positions, perpetuating a vicious cycle.

In recognition of the disparity, Thailand has created a 20-year economic plan to bring the nation to developed country status. The reforms aim to bring economic stability, equal economic opportunities, competitiveness and effective government bureaucracies. To reach its goal, Thailand needs to overcome what is constraining growth in rural areas and maintain widespread growth.

Poverty in Thailand, despite its success in development, reveals the need for further research into poverty alleviation. Approaches to ending global poverty should keep in mind the complexity of the problem.

Haley Hurtt

Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in Thailand Thai PovertyThailand 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

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In Thailand, a Southeast Asian country boasting scenic coastlines and rich religious history, literacy soars while achievement rates remain comparatively low.

Though the government invests generously in public education, the nation at large fails to measure up to global academic standards. Many citizens attribute this phenomenon to governmental bias and call for structural changes.

Education advocates have garnered the attention of public officials, but some obstructions still riddle the path to successful reform. Below are 10 facts about education in Thailand, including recent efforts to revitalize the system.

  1. Access to education in Thailand has risen consistently over the past two decades. All Thai children are guaranteed an education under the 1999 Education Act, and children of other nationalities living in Thailand gained the same right in 2005. A 2009 decision increased free education from 12 to 15 years. Between 2000 and 2009, primary and secondary school enrollment increased by nine percent and 17 percent, respectively.
  2. Despite Thailand’s universal access to education and 96.7 percent literacy rate, Thai students scored below the global average on PISA tests in 2014, ranking 35th out of 40 countries. Recent reports from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) also indicate that the country has fallen behind.
  3. In 2015, the government spent 19.35 percent of its yearly budget on education, a greater portion than was spent on anything else. However, Thailand has yet to see cumulative improvements in its schools.
  4. The lack of success might be the result of poorly divided funds. Instead of distributing it equally, the government funnels a large proportion of money toward schools where students already have a high likelihood to succeed and gives less to smaller and more rural schools.
  5. As a result, schools in poor areas must stretch their resources thin. Individual teachers often teach multiple grades and subjects.
  6. Due to these inequalities, students in city schools demonstrate higher rates of improvement than students at rural schools, according to the PISA test.
  7. While funding inequality puts small, rural schools at a particular disadvantage, the outdated curriculum does a disservice to all Thai schools. The system has used the same curriculum since 2008, which itself is only a slightly edited version of curriculum from 2001.
  8. The Asian Correspondent predicts economic problems in Thailand, as this curriculum focuses on outdated industries and skills. Unless the curriculum is updated to better fit the demands of the modern world, the Thai education system runs the risk of producing an unemployable generation.
  9. In 2014, the National Council for Peace and Order resolved to reconstruct the education system but has taken no discernible actions yet.
  10. Tutor schools and “shadow education” systems have emerged at the hands of parents, as there is a widespread distrust of the public education system. However, many continue the fight for better public education, as low-income families have fewer options to teach their children independently.

The future of education in Thailand may appear a bit rocky, but there is potential for improvement. With national attention on schools, and many families so passionate that they’ve come up with ways to combat the issue in their own homes, opportunities for students are bound to continue multiplying.

Madeline Forwerck

Photo: Flickr