Up to 1.5 million Thais fell below the poverty line in 2020 with the country’s economy contracting from effects of the pandemic, the World Bank said Thursday, emphasizing the importance of continued support for the poor.
The newly released figures shows that over 5 million people nationwide now live below the poverty line of USD $5.50 per day.
“As a result of the pandemic, hours worked fell sharply and people resorted to agricultural employment as a safety net,” stated the World Bank in its latest report.
The pandemic, according to the report, has exacerbated inequality since vulnerable groups have fewer coping strategies and tend to be more reliant on employment in tourism and service industries, which were the hardest hit.
“Continued assistance to the poor and vulnerable, including informal workers, will be necessary,” the report said.
The crisis also highlights the importance of the social safety nets for the informal jobs sector at all times, not just during crises.
The World Bank projects the poverty rate in 2020 and 2021 to be at 8.8 and 8.4 per cent, respectively, compared to 6.2 per cent pre-pandemic.
The World Bank also cut Thailand’s gross domestic product growth projection to 2.2 per cent for 2021, down from the 3.4 per cent estimated in March.
The reduction was due to the ongoing third wave of the pandemic.
The pace of recovery will depend on Thailand’s vaccination progress, the effectiveness of fiscal support, and the extent to which international tourism resumes, the report said.
“Adequate testing-tracing-isolation and further progress on vaccinations will be necessary to avoid the need for lockdowns,” said Kiatipong Ariyapruchya, World Bank Senior Economist for Thailand.