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03 22 Lecture Notes - Social Implications of Thailand.docx

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Geography 3312A/B
Haroon Akram Lodhi

Social Implications of Thailand’s Transformation - 1985 – 1997: the Thai economy underwent dramatic growth & transformation – drawing millions of peasants into the urban working class, lifting millions out of poverty. (33% - 11%) - (Keep in mind that this is based on the national poverty line) - Using the world standard of US$1PPP a day, between 1990 and 2004 only 2% of the population falls into extreme consumption poverty - Using the world standard of US$2PPP a day, between 1990 and 2004 25.4% of the population falls into poverty, which is a significant share of the population, and significantly more than national estimates - That poverty may be more widespread than is commonly acknowledged is supported by o the prevalence of children under the age of 5 being underweight for their age, which for 1996 to 2004 stood at 19% o the prevalence of undernourishment, which for 2001 to 2003 stood at 21% - Many workers use the files of the Thai Overseas Employment Administration to look for work outside the country. o Some 2 million Thais have migrated in search of work with Taiwan being popular o Contribute some 6% of the GNP - Poverty in Thailand is predominantly rural – 90% of the poor live rurally o Even then, poverty has fallen due to:  Crop diversification (away from rice into cash crop)  Remittances (from overseas workers) o In the northeast in incidence fell from 45% to 16% from 1975 to 1994 o Poverty is sensitive to crop prices and unforeseen events (droughts, flood, etc.) o The rapid poverty decline means the benefits of economic growth have been widespread; however, the better off have gained more than the poor Gini coefficients for Thailand (From 0 – perfect equality to 1 – one person has everything) Year 1962/3 1975/6 1985/6 1996 2000 0.414 0.426 0.500 0.515 0.525 Why the rise in inequality? One: agriculture has lower productivity than industry o Higher productivity is in manufacturing o value added per worker in agriculture rose from BHT2600 in 1960 to BHT5900 in 1991 o value added per worker in the economy as a whole rose from BHT5200 in 1960 to BHT23800 in 1991  Agriculture went from being half the economy average to a quarter (manufacturing has a higher income than agriculture – widening inequality) o thus, value added per worker in agriculture declines from 50% of the all-economy average to 25% of the all-economy average - in part, this is because land titles are often not clear, which means that land cannot be used as collateral for loans for investment Two: it is also because of a long-standing urban bias in government policy that only started to be reversed under Thaksinomics: - taxes and price interventions kept crop prices below world market prices, to benefit urban areas o This meant people could eat, but you’re artificially deflating rural income to urban purchasing power – disadvantaging the rural livers. - while industrial protection meant that agriculture had to pay higher prices for industrial products o higher incomes going to those working in industry, lower to agriculture Three: the rising commercialization of agriculture through diversification has generated inequality within agriculture. In the mid 1980s it was estimated that of farmers - 30% were commercial farmers or landlords - 40% were self-sufficient but not wealthy enough to innovate - 30% were marginal farmers and landless labourers Four: urban wages rise more rapidly than agricultural incomes even as urban employment opportunities expand - This generates 3 causes of increased inequality: 1. A marked increase in rural urban inequality - In addition, there is: o the neglect of secondary education will have increased the wages of the skilled relative to the less skilled, as the skilled are relatively rarer  Education benefits are in the cities o the neglect of secondary education will have increased the incentive amongst firms to use machinery rather than labour 2. A significant amount of intra-urban inequality - Notably, there is: o the regional concentration of manufacturing industry, especially around Bangkok, will have increased inter-regional inequality  Significant inequality in urban areas  Bangkok is comparatively richer than other urban areas 3. Persistent, longstanding regional inequalities - The rural economy, which as late as the early 1980s was central to the economy, is now acting increasingly as a ‘shock absorber’ for those displaced by processes of economic transformation - Thus, in 1997 those thrown into unemployment often returned to the countryside, using it as a social safety net by which self-reliance could be maintained - This raises questions about the ‘disappearance thesis’: Hobsbawm said the peasantry was fated to disappear, but is this the case if rural areas act as an employment ‘sink’ that captures those left behind by urban growth? HDI - In terms of human development, Thailand has witnessed a marked improvement in its Human Development Index (income, life expectancy, literacy) rating since 1975, but one that has been, since 1990, slower than that of East Asia as a whole Literacy and schooling - Thailand has a long history of ambitious schemes to promote universal primary education, going back to the 1890s, partially as an effort to create a uniform Thai identity through an emphasis on language and Theravada - In the 1960s this was taken up again, in part because of a growing communist insurgency in the north and northeast of the country, which were poorer - The campaigns of the 1960s paid off: in 2004 92.6% of adults over 15 were literate, while 98% of those between 15 and 24 were literate o Young people are literate – with the exception of some ethnic minorities - In 2000 a young person of 15 could expect to spend 7.8 years in school - Some 40% of all government spending between 2002 and 2004, or 4.2% of GDP, was devoted to education—but 56% of that was devoted to pre-primary and primary education - Therein lies a key problem that has already been mentioned: secondary enrollments are far below the average for East Asia, and far below the average that a country at Thailand’s level of economic development should witness - Thus, 80% of the Thai labour force has only received a primary education - Secondary enrollments have been rising, it should be noted: attendance was 65.7% in 2000, up from 45.5% in 1990—but it is still lower than it might be - By way of contrast, tertiary enrollment rates are in line with regional norms, but the majority of students are in vocational colleges with poor curriculum standards - Thailand thus has an unbalanced educational structure, which is reflected in its combined gross enrollment ratio for primary, secondary and tertiary education of only 74% - This lack of balance makes political sense: mass primary education extends government control and helps instill a national identity, while universities are there for the children of the elite - The lack of balance does not however make economic or social sense: there is a deep lack of skills needed to shift into higher value-added high-technology activities Health - Thailand had a life expectancy at birth of 70.3 years in 2004, which was a substantial increase over the 61 years witnessed between 1970 and 1975 - The under 5 infant mortality rate in 2004 was 21, down from 102 in 1970 - Both indicators demonstrate immediately impressive improvements in health outcomes - In 2003, public spending on health represented some 2% of GDP, while private spending on health represented some 1.3% of GDP - Some US$260 is spent per person per year on health care - The public health care system accounts for around 80% of hospitals, and includes: o a health center in every group of villages (tambon) o a hospital with between 10 and 90 beds in every district o one referral hospital with at least 200 beds and specialized care in every province - There are however wide regional variations in the public health care system - In 2004 there was one hospital bed for every 465 people, and one doctor for every 3276 people o Had a general fee for doctors, so when you went in there was a maximum charge - The public healthcare system is heavily subsidized by the government—which some of the international financial institutions argue cuts the efficiency of the delivery of health services, particularly to the poor - A particular strength of the public health care system is a long-standing emphasis on preventative measures, and as a consequence sanitation, clean water supplies and extensive vaccinations are widely used as a means of sustaining health - Thus, in 2004 99% of the population had access to clean water, sanitation, and had been vaccinated against tuberculosis - However, some infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis, dengue fever and malaria are still too widespread if compared to other countries in the region or at similar levels of economic development—in 2004 there were 208 cases of tuberculosis per 100000 people in Thailand - Also, chronic and degenerative diseases such as cancer and heart disease are on the rise— which are a sign, admittedly, of the affluence of a minority - Finally, another aspect of social change that should be mentioned is the growing phenomena of medical tourism into Thailand, which is o much cheaper than in other private sector led health delivery systems, i.e. one-third of the US price o of very high quality o of course not accessible to the average Thai o and is thus a sign of global social inequality HIV/AIDS - The first case of AIDS in Thailand was recorded in September 1984 when a homosexual male returned from abroad - The vector of the pandemic was: o 1984 men having sex with men (MSM) o 1988 intravenous drug users o 1989 female commercial sex workers (FCSWs) o 1990 clients of FCSWs o 1991 women in general, and thus mother-to-child transmission o 1992 the population at large - Thailand was one of the first countries in Asia to become aware of the scale of the pandemic that, at its peak in 1991 was producing 143000 new infections per year - In the late 1990s 6 people were dying an hour from AIDS - The early 1990s witnessed the emergence of a strong political commitment to tackling the pandemic, with the formation of the National AIDS Prevention and Control Committee, chaired by the Prime Minister - This led to an early multi-sector response involving several key ministries, municipalities, NGOs, media, communities, the private sector, and the police, focused largely on campaigns to reduce the risk involved in commercial sex transactions - This response was successful, and indeed no country can rival the results: the country not only halted the spread of the disease, but reversed it - How? The key was very dramatic changes in personal behaviour - The pandemic starts to come under control at the turn of the century - As a result, by 2003 the number of new infections per year had dropped to 21000, and was continuing to drop - Three factors contributed to reducing sexual transmission of the HIV virus: o reducing visits to sex workers o condom compliance o improved sexually-transmitted infections control through the introduction of powerful antibiotics - The cost of doing this was/was not expensive: in 1996 as the pandemic was being brought under control, the average cost of dealing with it was less than US$2 per person per year, of which more than 90% was paid by the Thai government - In Thailand AIDS has struck mostly poor rural farmers, landless labourers, and their families. They have only 4 to 6 years of primary school, and initially had little knowledge about how to protect themselves against HIV and AIDS--and even less knowledge about the disease itself. As a result they used to approach it with a fear just short of superstition - Anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment was provided for 78000 in 2006, which according to the World Health Organization was 90% of those who needed it - This success is due in part to the provision of cheaper generic drugs—some TNCs have not patented thei
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