Women’s participation in the labour market in Thailand
Table of Contents
Female Labour in Thailand
In the past, Thai people’s participation in economic activities and opportunity to get hired was determined by cultural gender stereotypes. Men were the head of the family and were expected to protect their family because men were seen as being physically stronger than women. Women were expected to look after their children and perform housework activities. These differences gave men greater educational and occupational opportunities. Nowadays, Thai culture is witnessing a transformation as a result of external influences and modernism. Thai society no longer restricts women’s chances to increase their productivity and income. Women are increasingly playing an important role in Thailand’s economic activities and development. Thai women form an important force in the labour market and help to drive economic growth. This makes it an important policy issue. Figure 1 The Number of Female Employees in Thailand in 2003–2011 (Source : The Labour Force Survey, National Statistical Office, Ministry of Information and Communication Technology) The Labour Force Survey, National Statistical Office, Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, available at: http://service.nso.go.th/nso/nsopublish/BaseStat/basestat.html file:W Figure1.jpg According to the figure above, the female labour force partiicpation in Thailand has been increasing annually from 2003 to 2011. In 2003 Thailand had 25,296,870 women working and from 2004 to 2010 it had approximately 27,022,770-29,879,740 women working. In 2010, there were 30,222,350 women in the Thai labour market, making them a key driver of economic growth. Figure 2 The Ratio of Female Labour as a proportion of the whole Thailand labour force from 2003-2011 (Source : The World Bank ) The World Bank,World Development Indicators, available at: http://data.worldbank.org/country/thailand file:W Figure2.jpg Furthermore, if we compare the ratio of female labour in Thailand to the whole Thai labour market, female labour has increased. Figure 2 shows that the ratio of female employment as a proportion of the whole Thai labour force from 2003-2010. We find that the graph increased in the same direction to graph 1 where in 2003 the ratio of female labour was 43.37 percent as a proportion of the whole Thai labour force. In 2011 the ratio of female labour was 44.87 percent, which shows that as the whole Thai labour force increased, the role of women in the labour market also increased. Thus, these two graphs show that women are a crucial factor in increasing economic productivity. Moreover, the Eleventh National Economic and Social Development Plan (2012-2016) emphasizes that women have to enter the economic sphere and undertake employment, therefore increasing their benefits from participating in the labour market. This will also present women with the likelihood of attaining a higher income and promotion to executive and decision-making levels leading to greater gender equality. The National Economic and Social Development Board, available at: http://eng.nesdb.go.th/Portals/0/news/plan/eng/THE%20ELEVENTH%20NATIONAL%20ECONOMIC%20AND%20SOCIAL%20DEVELOPMENT%20PLAN%282012-2016%29.pdf The following section focuses on the role of female labour force participation in the Thai economy. Notably, two main sectors of female employment are listed and compared: the agricultural sector and the non-agricultural sector.
Participation of women in labour market divided into economic sectors
The process to enhance economic growth has been focused on the non-agricultural sector, especially manufacturing. Figure 3 shows the ratio of productivity value in each economic sector to GDP since 1961-2011 according to the National Economic and Social Development Plan 1-10. So, in 1961 the ratio of productivity in the agriculture sector was 33.14 percent of GDP while the ratio of productivity in the non-agriculture sector was 13.82 percent of GDP. But in 2011 the ratio of the agriculture sector decreased to 11.69 percent of GDP while the ratio of the manufacturing sector increased to 35.06 percent of GDP. This indicates that the non-agricultural sector has gained in significance due to the process of unbalanced growth in the country. วิกฤตการณ์แห่งโครงสร้างและวิกฤตการณ์แห่งเส้นทางการพัฒนา,วารสารธรรมศาสตร์ 9(3): 1-44 Figure 3 shows the ratio of economic sectors to GDP between 1961-2011 (Source : The World Bank ) The World Bank,World Development Indicators, available at: http://data.worldbank.org/country/thailand file:W Figure3.jpg We can therefore observe the increasing participation of women in the labour force, together with the increased economic growth. This is particularly the case in the non-agricultural sector as shown in figure 4. Figure 4 shows the ratio of female labour in the Agricultural and Non-agricultural sectors to the whole female labour force in 1980-2009 (Source : The World Bank ) The World Bank,World Development Indicators, available at: http://data.worldbank.org/country/thailand file:W Figure4.jpg The above figure shows that the ratio of female labour in the agricultural sector as a proportion of the whole female labour in Thailand has continuously decreased. In 1980, the ratio of female labour in agricultural sector was 74.1 percent as a proportion of the whole female labour force. But in 2009 the ratio of female labour in the agricultural sector decreased to 39 percent of the whole female labour force while the ratio of female labour in the non-agriculture rose to 61 percent of the whole female labour force. Female labour, particularly in the non-agricultural sector, was encouraged to support greater economic growth. The above figures therefore demonstrate that female labour has shifted from the agricultural sector to the non-agricultural sector. The following section analyses the non-agricultural sector, which consists of two sectors: manufacturing and service sectors, in order to see which of these two sectors has a greater female employment rate. Figure 5 shows the ratio of women in Agriculture, Manufacturing and Service sectors as a proportion of the whole female labour force (Source : The World Bank ) The World Bank,World Development Indicators, available at: http://data.worldbank.org/country/thailand file:W Figure5.jpg The above figure shows a continuous shift of female labour to the non-agricultural sector. When we consider the non-agriculture sector with regards to the manufacturing and service sectors, we observe that the ratio of female labour in the service sector as a proportion of the whole female labour force was continually more than the manufacturing sector. In 1980, the ratio of women in the manufacturing sector was 7.8 percent while in the service sector it was 18.7 percent. In 2009 the ratio of female labour in the manufacturing sector increased to 17.6 percent of the whole female labour force while in the service sector it was 43.3 percent, showing a greater participation of women in the non-agriculture sector. A significant portion of this figure is in the services sector such as transportation, an important part of the Thai economy. The growth of female labour in the services sector reflects Thailand’s strategic interest in harnessing emerging opportunities within the Asian Economic Community (AEC). AEC Information Center, available at: http://www.thai-aec.com/134 Given the importance of female labour in the Thai economy, especially in the service sector, the following section looks at government policies aimed towards the improvement of this sector, especially Small and Medium Size Enterprises (SMEs).
Measures to help SMEs
The issue of SMEs is not a new concept in economic development. Though early academic works emphasized the importance of development in small enterprises, not many resulted in policy enforcement as dynamic as that of large enterprises (LEs) in developing countries. Considering the large contribution of LEs in the economic prosperity of developed nations, this brought to the fore the question of the significance of SMEs in development and why they should be emphasized, especially in planning and policy formulation of developing countries. Importance of SMEs Development in Thailand , Ing-wei Huang ; Mar. 2003 The measures seek to enhance the competitiveness of SMEs by supporting production development and enabling them to have access to funding sources. They also aim to reduce production costs following an increase in the daily minimum wage. Financial assistance and tax breaks under these measures are also intended to help SMEs affected by the severe flooding in 2011. Apart from approving a budget of up to than 7,325 million baht to help SMEs, the Cabinet also approved three draft bills on financial and tax measures to ease problems and obstacles faced by SMEs. As part of the financial measures, the productivity improvement loan, worth 20 billion baht, will be extended by the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Bank of Thailand. It is divided into two types, one for the development of machinery and the other for the development of the working process. The project will last two years, with financial support of not more than 1,805 million baht. In the second project, Portfolio Guarantee Scheme Phase 4, 24 billion baht in credit guarantees will be offered by the Thai Credit Guarantee Corporation, which will pay a coverage ratio of not higher than 18 percent of the average insurance burden to financial institutions throughout the five-year period of the project. The Government will provide realistic compensation of up to 2.22 billion baht. The third project, the Portfolio Guarantee Scheme, involves new enterprises operating not more than two years, with 10 billion baht in credit guarantee. The Thai Credit Guarantee Corporation will pay financial institutions the coverage ratio not higher than 48 percent of the insurance burden throughout the seven-year period of the project. Financial support for this project is worth 3.3 billion baht. In the fourth project, the Skill Development Fund will offer loans for SMEs to use in training at an interest rate of only 0.1 percent annually. Each SME will be offered not more than 42,000 baht, with a four-year repayment period. Today the fund consists of 570 million baht. Another project calls for providing credit to promote employment generation. In this connection, commercial banks will extend low-interest loans to SMEs affected by the wage increase. The funding source of the loans will come from the Social Security Fund As for the tax measures, tax breaks will be offered to SMEs for replacing old machines with new ones to enhance production efficiency. The Government Public Relations Department, Enhancing the Competitiveness of SMEs, available at: http://thailand.prd.go.th/view_news.php?id=6258&a=2 The last issue we will consider is the importance of women’s participation in the labour market and how the government is promoting and supporting these women.
Aid of Thai government
The Thai government acknowledges the importance of women’s participation in the labour market. For example, the 5th National Economic and Social Development Plan addressed the issue of the development of the female labour force by supporting women’s education in both urban and rural areas. This would include training and skills provision in order to increase efficiency and productivity. The government also established a Women’s Development Plan in accordance with the 5th National Economic and Social Development Plan(2012-2016). Both the private and non-governmental sector acknowledge the importance of developing the potential of women at all levels. They therefore collaborate with the public sector to implement projects such as the The Thai Women Empowerment Fund . The budget for this project amounts to 7,700 million bahts or an average of 100 million per province. This will be useful for economic development. If the funds are managed efficiently and operations are transparent and without the interference of the public sector, women can have better access to funds and have a greater participation in the labour market. Besides, Thailand also has a labour law entitled “Labour Protection Act B.E.1998 Chapter3 Employment of Women” which supports female labour force participation. The details of the “Labour Protection Act B.E.1998 Chapter3 Employment of Women” are as follows:
Chapter3: Employment of Female Labour
Labour Protection Act,B.E.2541(1998), available at: http://thailaws.com/law/t_laws/tlaw0132a.pdf Section 38 An employer is prohibited from requiring a female employee to perform any of the following work: (1) Mining or construction work which must be performed underground, underwater, in a cavern, in a tunnel or in a crater of a mountain, except where the conditions of work are not hazardous to the employee’s health or body; (2) Work on scaffolding which is 10 meters or more above the ground; (3) Production or transportation of explosives or inflammable materials; (4) Such other work as is prescribed by Ministerial Regulations. Section 39 An employer is prohibited from causing a pregnant female employee to work between 22:00 hours and 06:00 hours, or to work overtime, work on holidays, or perform any of the following: (1) Work on plant or equipment that vibrates; (2) Operate or go along with a mechanically propelled vehicle; (3) Lift, carry or bear on her head or shoulders, or pull or push loads that weigh more than 15 kilograms; (4) Work on water-going vessels; (5) Such other work as is prescribed by Ministerial Regulations. Section 40 Where an employer employs a female employee to work between 24:00 hours and 06:00 hours, and a labour inspector considers that the employment may be harmful to the health and safety of the female employee, the labour inspector shall submit a report to the Director-General or his designate for consideration and the issuance of a direction to the employer to change or reduce the working hours as deemed appropriate, and the employer shall be required to comply with this direction. Section 41 A pregnant female employee is entitled to maternity leave of not more than 90 days for each pregnancy.The days of maternity leave referred to in the previous paragraph shall also include holidays that occur during the period of leave. Section 42 Where a pregnant female employee is in possession of a certificate issued by a first class medical practitioner, stating that she is no longer able to perform her original duties, the employee shall be entitled to request her employer to change her work temporarily either before of after childbirth, and the employer shall consider changing her duties to such as are suitable for the employee. Section 43 An employer is prohibited from terminating female employee because of her pregnancy.
CEDAW and MDGs with Women Participation
The Ministry of Women’s Affairs,CEDAW,available at: http://www.mwa.govt.nz/our-work/international/cedaw.html Many countries have recognized the importance of women’s participation in the labour market. Several international organizations promote women’s role in economic growth and development. The CEDAW (CEDAW) which was adopted in 1979 by the United Nations General Assembly is often described as an international bill of rights for women. Consisting of a preamble and 30 articles, it defines what constitutes discrimination against women and sets up an agenda for national action to end such discrimination. The Convention defines discrimination against women as “…any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.” By accepting the Convention, States commit themselves to undertake a series of measures to end discrimination against women in all forms, including:
- to incorporate the principle of equality of men and women in their legal system, abolish all discriminatory laws and adopt appropriate ones prohibiting discrimination against women;
- to establish tribunals and other public institutions to ensure the effective protection of women against discrimination; and
- to ensure elimination of all acts of discrimination against women by persons, organizations or enterprises.
The Convention provides the basis for realizing equality between women and men through ensuring women’s equal access to, and equal opportunities in, political and public life – including the right to vote and to stand for election – as well as education, health and employment. State parties agree to take all appropriate measures, including legislation and temporary special measures, so that women can enjoy all their human rights and fundamental freedoms. The Convention is the only human rights treaty which affirms the reproductive rights of women and targets culture and tradition as influential forces shaping gender roles and family relations. It affirms women’s rights to acquire, change or retain their nationality and the nationality of their children. State parties also agree to take appropriate measures against all forms of traffic in women and exploitation of women. Countries that have ratified or acceded to the Convention are legally bound to put its provisions into practice. They are also committed to submit national reports, at least every four years, on measures they have taken to comply with their treaty obligations. Development Studies Internet Resources,the Millennium Development Goals, available at: http://www.wellesley.edu/Polisci/wj/DevelopmentLinks/mdgs.htmlUnited Nations Women is one of the United Nations agencies charged with supporting countries in moving forward on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The eight goals, adopted by the international community in 2000, set targets for 2015 on eradicating poverty, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and empowering women, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS/AIDS and other diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability, and providing financing for development. All eight MDGs touch essential aspects of women’s well-being, and in turn, women’s empowerment is critical for achieving the goals. UN Women has engaged in advancing the MDGs through three entry points:
- Operational programmes: In all regions and through all its thematic areas, UN Women programmes contribute to the MDGs. UN Women pilots innovative strategies and strengthens the capacity of other UN programmes to support women’s advancement.
- Monitoring and analysis: UN Women works with governments and non-governmental organizations to evaluate progress on the MDGs, including through the use of sex-disaggregated data and indicators that fully account for gender gaps. UN Women also contributed to the UN Millennium Project, commissioned by the UN Secretary-General to develop an action plan to achieve the MDGs, by preparing background papers and sharing proven strategies.
- Advocacy: Through various partnerships, UN Women has worked to raise awareness and encourage participation in MDG activities, including the national and international advocacy efforts led by the UN Millennium Campaign. In conclusion, women take an important role in economic especially in the labour market. A number of female labour is likely to increase for every single year. In addition, the service section which female labour takes part in most is considered as the important section for the country’s economic development and well supported by the government (e.g., the policy which helps SMEs entrepreneur).
Furthermore, the Thai government has announced several policies to support women’s role in the national economy, such as the National Economic and Social Development Plan and the Labour law. There are also many policies at the international level such as the CEDAW and the Millennium Development Goalss. The development of the social and economic role of Thai women is the result of the recognition and implementation of the international Charters, Rules and Regulations. This article has shown that female labour is the base for economic development and is as important as male labour for growth.
- Wikigender University student article, Thailand, School of Economics and Public Policy, Srinakarinwirot University.