Thailand was the second country to report a COVID-19 case in January 2020. The Thai Government was able to maintain the number of COVID-19 cases low for as long as September 2020, a result of an early lockdown and effective contact tracing strategy. While the measures taken by the Government slowed down the spread of the pandemic in Thailand, they resulted in loss of jobs, incomes, businesses and food security for families and education for children. Unfortunately, subsequent waves and emerging new variants have imposed a major economic challenge on the country as the number of COVID-19 cases surged to over 2,000 cases per day in May 2021 and led to new strict containment measures.
To monitor the social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in Thailand, the World Bank funded a rapid phone survey that was conducted by Gallup Poll from April 27 to June 15, 2021. The survey interviewed around 2,000 adults aged 18+. The survey instrument covered themes of employment, household sources of income, access to food and food security, social protection and coping mechanisms, access to education, and access to health services and the COVID-19 vaccines.
- National employment remained stable at 68% between March 2020 and June 2021. However, large variations were observed between regions and population groups. Employment declined by 8 percentage points in urban areas and the capital city, while it increased by 8 percentage points in rural areas and the northern region as many of those who lost their jobs due to the pandemic returned to agriculture.
- Overall, over 50% of respondents were affected by job losses, temporary work stoppage, and reduced number of working hours or reduced pay.
- More than 70% of the interviewed households experienced a decline in their income since March 2020, with around 80% of the households in rural areas, the southern region, and low-income groups experiencing income declines.
- Farming activities and non-farm businesses were also severely affected by income declines, as about 50% of them experienced a decline in their incomes by more than half.
- Households in the southern region and those in low-income groups were the most significantly impacted by income losses.
- Many households reported running out of food, with proportions reaching 60% among low-income households and those with children.
- Households used several coping mechanisms during the crisis, the most common including reduction of food and non-food consumption, reliance on government assistance, reliance on savings, and engagement in additional income generating activities.
- Over 80% of households benefitted from the Government emergency assistance programs introduced in 2020, with proportions approximating 90% among low-income households and those who experienced income shocks.
- The proportion of social assistance beneficiaries in 2020 almost doubled compared to 2019.
- Around 90% of households had all their children aged 6 to 17 years enrolled in school last semester.
- Proportions are lower among lower income households (86%) than better-off ones (96%).
- Over half of children attended mixed (face-to-face and remote) classes and one-fourth attended face-to-face only.
- Around 57% of respondents indicated that enrolled children in their households faced learning issues, with children in rural and low-income households more likely to have difficulties in accessing learning devices.
- Around one-third of households that needed medical assistance could not access the services due to concerns about getting infected with COVID-19.
- Most people are aware of the availability of the vaccine and where to get it, mainly through media and social media.
- At the time of the survey, concerns about the vaccine side effects were among the main reasons for reluctance to get vaccinated. More than 36% of the low education and low-income groups and the youth did not plan on getting vaccinated
The survey provides real-time, ground-level picture of the effects on employment and income, food security, coping mechanisms, education, and health as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds. Continued monitoring of the social and economic impacts through subsequent rounds of the survey is thus important in informing the design of inclusive economic recovery policies and programs for Thai households.