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Many Thais Still Struggling to Afford the Basics
World

Many Thais Still Struggling to Afford the Basics

by Chayanun Saransomrurtai
Many Thais Still Struggling to Afford the Basics

Story Highlights

  • More than four in 10 Thais (42%) struggled to afford food in 2018
  • 54% in lowest income group struggling vs. 27% in the highest

BANGKOK -- After the country's 2014 coup d'état, Thailand's economy seemed to recover with GDP growth rising from 1% in 2014 to 4.1% in 2018. However, since 2016, the numbers of Thais who are struggling to afford the basics have remained elevated, particularly among the poorest Thais.

Ahead of an anticipated slowdown in economic growth in 2019 and again in 2020, 42% of all Thais in 2018 said they had struggled to afford food their families needed, and 30% said they had struggled to afford shelter.

Line graph. Trend in Thais’ ability to afford food and shelter.

In 2015, Thailand was one of the countries in Southeast Asia with the lowest percentage of people who were struggling to afford food -- at just 15%. Only Singapore, at 5%, had a lower percentage. The picture looked markedly different three years later. Thais are now more likely to be struggling to afford food than their regional neighbors in Singapore (6%), Vietnam (19%) and Malaysia (29%).

Struggles to Afford Food Across Southeast Asia
Have there been times in the past 12 months when you did not have enough money to buy food that you or your family needed?
2015 2018
% Yes % Yes
Singapore 5 6
Thailand 15 42
Malaysia 18 29
Vietnam 26 19
Indonesia 32 41
Myanmar 54 62
Philippines 64 67
Cambodia 65 64
Laos NA 61
Gallup World Poll

While Thais in both the highest and lowest income groups are more likely to be struggling to afford food than they were just a few years ago, the inequality between the two groups has become a chasm. Since 2016, Thais in the poorest 20% income group have been about twice as likely as those in the richest 20% income group to report struggling to afford food. In the most recent measure, 54% in the poorest 20% said this was the case, compared with 27% in the richest 20%.

At a minimum, this suggests that not all Thais have benefited from the increasing GDP growth in these years. Moreover, as GDP growth is starting to decline, it is more worrisome for the poorer segments of the Thai population.

Gap Between the Richest and Poorest Thais
Have there been times in the past 12 months when you did not have enough money to buy food that you or your family needed?
2015 2018
% Yes % Yes
Thailand 15 42
Poorest 20% income group 16 54
Richest 20% income group 18 27
Gallup World Poll

Against this backdrop, Thais' confidence in their national government has gradually edged downward again, even as their national economic picture has been improving. After peaking at 72% in the first year of Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha's military government, Thais' confidence dropped gradually before stabilizing at 61% in 2017 and 2018.

However, instead of losing favor among the poorest Thais, the government has lost confidence among those in the richest 20% of the population.

Line graph. Trend in Thais’ confidence in their national government.

Implications

The data suggest that headed into an extended period of a potential economic slowdown, the national government will need to acknowledge the large percentage of Thais who are struggling to meet their basic needs, and allocate resources and opportunities to mitigate the inequality.

For complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.

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Gallup https://news.gallup.com/poll/270047/thais-struggling-afford-basics.aspx
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