Poverty in Thailand on the rise, says new World Bank report

A new report from the World Bank, launched yesterday morning (5 March) at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT), said that the number of people living in poverty in Thailand has risen in recent years, despite the success in reducing poverty over the last three decades.

The report found that the poverty rate in Thailand increased from 7.2% to 9.8% between 2015 and 2018, and the number of people living in poverty rose from 4.85 million to more than 6.7 million. It also found that the increase in poverty is widespread, occurring in 61 out of 77 provinces, with the southern region having the highest poverty rate for the first time in 2017.

The report also found that the recent increase in poverty coincides with emerging and shifting economic and environmental challenges in the economy. It found that Thailand had one of the lowest GDP growth rates in the developing East Asia and Pacific region, at 2.7% during the fourth quarter of 2019. It is also the only ASEAN nation to have experienced several increases in poverty since 2000.

And while Thailand “performs better” than other ASEAN nations in terms of indicators of well-being, such as education enrolment rates among children of primary school age, and access to water, sanitation and electricity, and in international terms has a low rate of extreme poverty, inequality remains an issue. The report found that, between 2015 – 2017, consumption and income growth among the bottom 40% of the population is negative, and stated that the reversal in the trend is related to declines in all forms of labour income, including a stagnation in wage growth and declines in farm and business income.

The report calls for active interventions and investments to help households break out of generational poverty, support aging cohorts, and boost the country’s growth prospects. It also suggests that, in order to break the poverty cycle, the country needs to “invest equitably” in the next generation and give every child the opportunities needed in order to reach their full potential.