New UNICEF survey shows positive news on Thailand's socio-economic recovery from COVID-19, but poor families continue to face challenges
BANGKOK, 24 May 2023 – A UNICEF survey released earlier this week reveals that households in Thailand are recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic with significant improvements in jobs and income across all population groups. However, challenges remain in areas of childcare, household debt, and savings, primarily affecting the poorest and families with children.
UNICEF's High Frequency Surveys aimed to monitor the impact of COVID-19 pandemic and other shocks such as price increases on households, and track their recovery trajectories, including in areas such as household income, employment, childcare, food security, health, education and social assistance. Two rounds were conducted in September 2022 and March 2023, interviewing more than 2,000 households across Thailand.
The survey reveals an overall positive trend, particularly for those who had lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic, with 90 per cent having returned to work as of March 2023, compared to 79 per cent in September 2022. This positive trend has been accompanied by an improvement in income, with 55 per cent of respondents reporting that their income had increased, with nearly half of them stating that the increase was substantial.
Unfortunately, households with children appear to recover slower than the rest of the population. According to the survey, households with children found it more difficult to start working again after losing their jobs, mainly due to childcare obligations. Mothers and grandmothers were the main providers of care, with 86 per cent responsible for that work, compared with just 4 per cent of fathers and grandfathers.
“While recovery is well underway, families with children and the poorest members of the population continue to face significant challenges, especially around childcare services, employment opportunities and rising prices,” said Kyungsun Kim, UNICEF Representative for Thailand. “These challenges underscore the critical need to prioritize investments in children, especially accessible and affordable quality childcare services, and making the child support grant universal while increasing the grant amount to help families coping with rising prices.”
According to the survey, many parents struggle to find suitable and affordable childcare services. More than 1 in 3 of the respondents (37 per cent) had forgone employment due to childcare needs, especially in the northeast and rural areas, saying childcare services were too expensive for them to afford. Due to a lack of childcare options, 5 per cent of respondents occasionally left their children aged 0-6 under the care of another child younger than 10 years old while 10 per cent indicated that sometimes they had to take their young children to work.
Despite high prevalence of households benefiting from social assistance provided by the Government, the survey found worrying trends in household savings and debt, especially among households with children. About 70 per cent of all households indicated that their savings had either decreased from six months earlier or they had no savings left at all. Between September 2022 and March 2023, borrowing from financial institutions increased from 21 per cent to 40 per cent while delayed repayments also rose from 24 per cent to 36 per cent. Delay in debt repayment was higher at 41 per cent among households with children, signaling higher vulnerability to shocks.
More positively, children are returning to schools, the survey noted. In March 2023, almost all respondents said their children had returned to schools compared with some 94 per cent six months earlier. A majority of them also reported that their children are catching up well on learning after returning to school.
“We hope that this report will complement the ongoing efforts of the Royal Thai Government in steering the country towards an inclusive recovery. By putting children first on the national agenda, we will not only recover from the pandemic but also accelerate our journey towards sustainable development and shared prosperity.” Kim added.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org/thailand.
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