Thai Women's Participation in the Economy

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Introduction:
In the past two decades concern for increasing participation of women as equal partners in the sustainable development of their societies and the promotion of the elimination of discriminatory barriers against women in every field has grown rapidly. This includes creation of employment opportunities for women, delivery of education and training for women to increase their skills base, and improvement of the work environment specific to the needs of women.

Women’s participation in the economy
Women have made up around 50 percent of the total Thailand population for decades. In 2006, women account for 50.65 percent of the total population (31.82 million) and 65.1 % of women participated in labor force. Meanwhile, women’s labor force participation patterns are like those of men. As shown in figure 1, both male and female labor force participation rates gradually rose in the 1970s and 1980s. By the end of the 1980s, their participation began to drop. However, within the last 20 years, the female labor force participation ratio** has remained almost constant about 0.81, higher than average compared with other middle-income and low-income nations (as seen on table 1 and 2). The high labor force participation ratio has indicated at least two possible implications. On one hand, proportionally more Thai women than women in many other countries endure the higher pressures of working outside the home while continuing to bear responsibilities for housework, child-rearing, and caring for family obligations. On the other hand, more Thai women have the freedom to choose their lifestyle or workplace, and can hire individuals to assist with domestic needs. Job opportunities are now much more accessible to women whose potential and capabilities have been recognized.

Figure 1: Labor Force Participation Rates By Sex, 1975-2006

Table 1: Female Labor Force Participation Ratio
YearTotalMaleFemaleFemale Labor Force Participation Ratio 199474.080.867.20.83
199573.179.966.20.83
199671.578.864.10.81
199771.878.764.80.82
199870.678.063.20.81
199972.280.364.20.80
200072.780.664.90.81
200174.181.866.60.81
200273.581.565.60.80
200373.181.165.10.80
200473.181.365.70.81
200573.081.566.30.81
200673.081.365.10.80
Source: National Statistical Office.

Table 2: Women’s Economic Participation

Nations
Female Share of Population (Percent)Life Expectancy at Birth Total Labor Force (Millions)Female Share of Labor Force (Percent)Female Labor Force Participation Ratio
MaleFemale
Thailand50.368756244.500.8
Low-Income Nations49.45860109037.80.6
Middle-Income Nations49.56772137042.00.7
High-Income Nations50.4758143543.10.8
Source: World Bank.

Considering women’s involvement in decision making as an important indicator for human development, the UNDP’s gender empowerment measure (GEM) has taken women’s representation in Parliament, shares of legislators, senior officials and managers, shares of professional and Technical jobs, and ratio of estimated female-male earned income into account. As shown in table 3.1 and 3.2, Thailand’s GEM ranking is 60. Compared with other ASEAN countries, Thailand is ranked 4th out of 5 ASEAN countries in GEM. The International comparison on HDI, Thailand is ranked 74th out of 177 countries in the HDI. Amongst the ASEAN countries, Thailand is ranked 4st out of 10 ASEAN countries in HDI. The International comparison on GDI, Thailand is ranked 58th out of the 136 countries. Amongst the ASEAN countries, Thailand is ranked 2nd out of 7 ASEAN countries in GDI.

Table 3.1: GEM Comparison among Asian Countries

IndicatorsJapanSingaporeKoreaMalaysiaThailandPhilippinesSri LankaCambodia HDI rank9252861748496130
GDI rank12282951586673105
GEM rank3818685560457469
GEM value0.5310.6480.3770.5190.4610.5420.2760.364
Seats in parliament9.916.05.916.3...
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