Press Release

Informal workers most affected by COVID-19: UN Thailand

23 June 2020

  • Workers in the informal economy are most affected by the COVID-19 crisis, while the number of working poor is expected to rise to at least 11 per cent, according to the research by International Labour Organization (ILO), a member of the United Nations in Thailand.

The study “COVID-19 Employment and labour market impact in Thailand”, released  recently, states that based on labour force survey data for the first quarter, workers in the informal sector are most affected due to their lack of income security and exclusion from comprehensive social protection measures. The loss of income among informal workers will push many over the poverty threshold (minimum income of $1.90 or about THB60 per day). As a result, the share of the working poor in Thailand is expected to increase from 4.7 per cent to at least 11 per cent of total employment this year.

Due to the pandemic, Thai workers will have an impact in the form of reduced working hours and wages or even complete job loss. According to the study, 6.6 to7.5 million workers in Thailand are expected to experience such disruption firsthand. Moreover, the number of hours worked in Thailand declined by nearly 6 per cent in the first quarter of the year, which is the equivalent to a loss of 2.2 million full-time jobs (assuming a 40 hour working week). The decrease is expected to increase to about 10 per cent in the second quarter, thus bringing the estimated loss to a full-time equivalent of 4 million jobs, according to the study by ILO.  

The occupations that saw the greatest decrease are primarily low-skilled workers in agriculture and those doing clerical work including customer service. The most sizable increase in occupation over this period relates to health professionals, which increased by  nearly a fifth in comparison to the last year.

Graeme Buckley, Director of ILO Country Office for Thailand, Cambodia and Lao People's Democratic Republic, said “we still don’t know the full extent of livelihood loss yet. It will depend on the continuing evolution of the pandemic and on the effectiveness of the government’s measures in stimulating the economy, sustaining enterprises and protecting livelihoods.” 

Gita Sabhrawal, the UN Resident Coordinator in Thailand, said “ILO’s study shows us that COVID-19 crisis hits the vulnerable population groups in Thailand particularly hard. To deal with labour disruptions and stimulate economic rebound, green climate friendly measures targeting SMEs will be amongst the best options.” 

This is part of the series of the impact assessments of COVID-19, conducted by UN Thailand. Earlier this month, the impact assessment of COVID-19 on the Industrial Sector conducted by UNIDO was launched. The UN will launch its next assessment of the Socio-Economic Impact of COVID-19, produced by UNDP and UNICEF later this week.  

Read the full report here.

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