BANGKOK, 17 October 2022 – Thailand must increase its investment in children and take further measures to tackle the high prevalence of poverty among families with children who have been hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, said UNICEF on the occasion of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.
Despite a series of positive measures taken by the government to mitigate its impact, the pandemic has laid bare vulnerabilities and exacerbated inequalities. Families with children have been hit hardest and are more likely to face a higher cost of living and loss of income. Recent higher food and energy prices are worsening the situation and slowing down the gains that Thailand has made in its poverty reduction and human capital investment.
According to the National Economic and Development Council, in 2021, the poverty rate among children stood at 9.9 per cent, which is significantly higher than that of the overall population at 6.3 per cent.
“While the Thai economy continues to pick up, not all groups of people are recovering equally from the far-reaching impact of COVID-19. Families with children are at risk of being left behind,” said Kyungsun Kim, UNICEF Representative for Thailand.
“Tackling childhood poverty is a pressing priority for Thailand not only because the pandemic has pushed thousands below the poverty line but also because its population is rapidly ageing. This requires a policy response that focuses on the needs of children and the most vulnerable to ensure an inclusive and sustainable recovery. Beyond quick-impact economic growth, we must also turn our attention to building human capital for long-term growth and prosperity.”
Thailand has made remarkable progress in poverty reduction over the past decades, with people living below the poverty line decreasing from 67 per cent in 1986 to 6.3 per cent in 2021. Moreover, government policies have effectively curbed the negative impacts of COVID-19 right from the start. Studies have shown that without the social protection measures taken at the early stages of the pandemic, such as the emergency top-up of the Child Support Grant, the poverty rate in Thailand would have increased by several folds.
With its impressive track record, Thailand must continue to tackle child poverty through continued investment and action for the most vulnerable. For example, any benefits targeted at the child population can not only effectively address poverty across the population, but can also guarantee higher gains for human capital.
“Investing in children is no longer an option,” Kim emphasized. “There is no choice to be made between long-term economic growth and supporting children, because providing a decent start for the children of Thailand is the best investment in securing a prosperous future for generations to come.”