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Rates of poverty have once again spiked in Thailand following three decades of decline, a new World Bank report reveals. 

Between 2015 and 2018, the rate of poverty in the Southeast Asian nation increased from 7.21% of the population to 9.85%, pushing a further almost 2 million people into poverty. According to the report, the increase in poverty was apparent in all regions and nearly all provinces, with the northeast and central areas particularly hard hit. 

Between 1988 and 2015, poverty rates in Thailand fell from 67% to just over 7%. 

World Bank Thailand Country Manager Birgit Hansl said the increase in poverty after decades of decline could be linked to recent political instability, weakening global economic trends, military coups, the aging population, the nation’s low growth rate, drought, a decline in tourism and stalling of household incomes. 

"Recent poverty trends demonstrate that despite Thailand’s level of economic development, households are still vulnerable to shocks and weak economic conditions,” Birgit Hansl said in a media release. “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. It will be equally important to support the creation of more productive and higher-paying jobs.”

Thailand is only the Southeast Asian state to report numerous poverty spikes since 2000 — in 2000, 2008, 2016, and 2018. 

The report declared a more “nuanced picture of inequity” is needed to avert future spikes and reduce inequality among the poorest 40% of the country. According to the report’s author Judy Yang, this group of people — predominantly farmers and urban workers — are missing out on the nation’s prosperity and experiencing falling incomes.

Yang explained that between 2015 to 2017, “consumption and income growth in this bottom 40% were negative.”  

"A more nuanced picture of inequity and a better understanding of vulnerability will be needed to guide Thailand’s next steps towards building a more prosperous society for all.” Yang stated in the press release. “Eliminating persistent pockets of poverty will require growth strategies that take into account short-run risk mitigation and long-run investment needs.”

As a long term strategy, the report calls for increased investment in the next generation. 

The World Bank has called on Thailand to focus efforts on ensuring the younger generation has equal access to health, infrastructure, and education — including advanced opportunities like access to the internet. The standards at which household wellbeing are measured will also need to rise, the report states, as the cost of living increases. 


Demand Equity

Poverty Increases in Thailand Following 3 Decades of Decline: World Bank Report

By Madeleine Keck