Thai labourers shouldering 26% more debt than last year, survey finds


Thai labourers are in worse shape than last year debt-wise, according to a survey by the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce's Centre for Economic and Business Forecasting (CEBF), which urged the government on Labour Day (May 1) to adjust minimum wages and reduce cost of living, two challenges faced by low-income earners.

CEBF director Thanawat Pholvichai said that according to the survey of 1,259 workers earning less than 15,000 baht per month conducted nationwide between April 19 and 25, some 19.4% of respondents earned less than 10,000 baht and 0.1% earned less than 5,000 baht per month.

Less than half (42.6%) of workers earning less than 15,000 baht per month are under the Social Security programme, he said.

The survey found that most respondents have debts from personal loans, credit cards, housing and auto loans, with 64.8% of the respondents’ debt amounts being legal loans from financial institutions, while 35.2% are from loan sharks, acquaintances and relatives.

The CEBF estimated that throughout the country, the population in this group has combined household debts of 344.52 billion baht, 26.4% higher than last year.

Thai labourers shouldering 26% more debt than last year, survey finds

“It is notable that the ratio of illegal loans per legal counterpart has decreased year on year, thanks to the government’s effort in cracking down on loan sharks,” Thanawat said. “However, low-income earners are at higher risk of defaulting on their loans this year compared with the previous year because of the rising cost of living.”

The survey found that 45.7% of the respondents have been behind on their debt repayments in the past year; 34.5% said their expenses are higher than income, and 10.5% said their family members have been recently out of the job or retired in the past year.

The CEBF urged the government to step in and increase minimum wages across all professions and provinces, as well as use measures to reduce the cost of living of low-income earners.

The centre also suggested that relevant agencies provide aid measures for unemployed workers and those who have been overwhelmed by debt burdens.

The CEBF also estimated that this year’s Labour Day will see expenditure of 2.11 billion baht among Thais, increasing 2.4% year on year, and could be the highest in five years. Average spending on this holiday is estimated at 2,655 baht per person.