05/01/2019, 10.15
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95% of Thai workers indebted

Among the causes: the high cost of living and easy loans.  The average income of the workforce is around € 419 per month.  The average debt per family is 4,437 euros: + 15% compared to last year.  The country's economic slowdown is weighing.  Usury debt accounts for 41.8% of the money owed.  The phenomenon often also affects Thai workers abroad.




Bangkok (AsiaNews) - 95% of Thai workers drown in debt.  Their liabilities rose to the highest level in the last 11 years, driven by higher living costs and easier access to loans: this is what emerges from the latest survey conducted by the University of the Chamber of Commerce of Thailand (Utcc)  .

The study states that the average income of the workforce is around 15,000 baht (419 euros) per month and estimates that the average household debt is 158,855 baht (4,437 euros).  The figure recorded almost 15% growth compared to last year.  Almost 86% of the people who participated in the research cannot count on savings, due to the increase in expenses, product prices and greater loans for housing and cars.  The majority claims to be rather cautious about purchases.

Thanavath Phonvichai, vice president of research for UTCC, told the Bangkok Post that most workers are worried about the country's economic slowdown.  Moreover, the uncertainty that has emerged after the recent general elections does not alleviate the widespread feeling of distrust.  "About 80.3% of respondents said they defaulted in the previous 12 months because they spent more than they earned," says Thanavath.  "The workers want the daily minimum wage to increase in line with the increases in utilities, transport and food products".

The expert attributes the increases to the slowdown in the national economy.  "If this remains weak, we expect workers to demand even more disorganized loans," says Thanavath.  The study reveals that this year debt from usury accounts for 41.8% of the debt contracted by the families of workers;  in 2018 it was 34.6%.

The debt phenomenon often also affects Thai workers abroad.  Pipat Traichan, project manager of the Catholic National Commission on Migration (NCCM) - an organization under the aegis of Caritas Thailand - explains to AsiaNews that in recent years the Thai world of work has changed considerably, but debt seems to be a constant .

"In the past - he says -, until about 10 years ago, many Thais used to leave as migrant workers for countries like Taiwan, South Korea and Malaysia in search of better salaries.  Once in the destination country, they found themselves forced to borrow from the agencies that recruited them.  To return these sums, the same agencies or employers kept part of their salary.  The migrants took years, before returning all the money due ".

In recent times, Traichan emphasizes, departures are diminishing, thanks also to the better living conditions that Thailand can offer its citizens.  However, another phenomenon is emerging.  "Many of the Thai migrants have returned home.  Among these there are those who squander in a few years the amount earned abroad.  Without money or work or something to do in Thailand, they find themselves forced to leave again to seek fortune again overseas.  Some choose to remain in South-East Asia (Malaysia or Singapore), others leave for the Middle East convinced that they will spend two or three years there.  However, these people sometimes do not think about their future and fall victim to forced labor or even human trafficking ".  "The sad thing - concludes Traichan - is that the same fate awaits many migrants who come to Thailand from Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia".

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