4.4 million Thais still earn less than 3,000 baht a month, says NESDC

People sit at a bar overlooking Wat Arun, a Buddhist temple, in Bangkok on March 17.
Photo: AFP

4.4 million Thais still earn less than 3,000 baht a month, says NESDC

About 4.4 million Thai nationals are living below the poverty line now, dropping from 4.7 million during the Covid-19 crisis, the National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC).

Danucha Pichayanan, NESDC secretary-general, said 4.4 million people or 6.3 per cent of the population are below the poverty line, which according to him is defined by a monthly income of 2,762 baht.

In 2019, before Thailand was struck by Covid-19, 4.3 million people were below the poverty line but that jumped to 4.7 million in 2020 when the country was at the height of the crisis.

In 2020, the Thai economy also contracted by 6.2 per cent, with 650,000 people left unemployed, marking a 74.4 per cent increase from a year earlier.
By region, Thailand’s South is worst hit with 1.1 million or 11.6 per cent of residents living below the poverty line. The Northeast came in second with 11.5 per cent of residents living in abject poverty, followed by the Central region (6.8 per cent), the North (3.2 per cent), and Bangkok (0.5 per cent), NESDC data show.

Meanwhile, people living in rural areas have seen a higher jump in income compared to those living in urban areas, NESDC said.

In 2021, the average monthly income of rural residents came in at 8,130 baht, a 7.1 per cent surge from 7,588 baht in 2019. Urban residents, meanwhile, earned an average of 12,018 baht per month in 2021, a 2.6 per cent gain when compared to 11,712 baht two years ago.

Thailand saw the gap between rich and poor expand slightly last year compared to 2019 before Covid-19.

The country’s income Gini coefficient is 0.43 in 2021, up from 0.429 in 2019, according to the NESDC.

The Gini coefficient is based on the comparison of the cumulative proportion of the population against the cumulative proportion of the income they receive, and it ranges between 0 in the case of perfect equality and 1 in the case of perfect inequality.

A World Bank report released last week says that Thailand had the highest income inequality rate in the East Asia and Pacific region in 2019, when the top 1 per cent captured 21 per cent of national income, while the income share of the bottom five deciles constitutes only 14 per cent.

The World Bank report, titled “Thailand Rural Income Diagnostic: Challenges and Opportunities for Rural Farmers”, cites Credit Suisse’s Global Wealth Report, which says that despite a decline in the wealth share of the top 1 per cent from 67 per cent in 2018 to 40 per cent in 2020, Thailand’s income gap remains wider than the East Asia and Pacific average of 38 per cent.