Lacking access to capital hinders home-based workers’ business opportunities

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By Carlin Carr

On a quiet lane, Mayuri Suepwong, a member of HomeNet Thailand, is working away in her colorful, two-story home. Her main room suits her well as a workspace: it’s a wide-open area, leaving plenty of floor area to conduct her home-based garment-making business. Various materials are piled in corners and on empty countertops. Dresses-in-progress hang along the walls. A single, pink fan keeps the room cool – a necessity in the hot and humid Bangkok weather.

Today, Mayuri is working steadily on a 5:00 p.m. deadline. The order is a tedious one: her daughter and another family member are helping to hand-lay embroidered jewels on headscarves and then secure them with a hot press. Each scarf takes a half an hour.

Mayuri's daughterMayuri's daughter helps her mother after school. Photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images Reportage

Mayuri starts work as soon as she gets up. During Ramadan, her high season, she often starts at 3:00 a.m. and will go until 9:00 p.m. to keep up with the orders. But business isn’t always so good, and as a single mother of four children, she struggles with the fluctuations.

And while she has the potential to earn more in the busy seasons, as a home-based worker, she is solely responsible for all the associated costs. For example, running all her machines for long hours increases her electricity bill from a normal 2,000 Thai baht (THB) to more than double: 4,500 THB. 

She also has to pay to maintain the machines, and, of course, had to come up with the capital to purchase her sewing machine at 12,000 THB and the two pressing machines at 10,000 THB.

Mayuri and her daughterMayuri shows off one of the head coverings she and her daughter made. Photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images Reportage

In addition to the electricity and machines costs, she also has to deduct travel costs from her earnings. She supplies her garments, which she designs herself, to a shop. Every week, she takes time out from sewing to travel to wholesale markets to get material. She then delivers the final products, which can take two hours by public vans. If she has too many goods to transport, she has to splurge on a taxi. 

Access to capital, she says, could transform her opportunities. “If I could get more machines and buy material in bulk,” she says, still steadily working, “I could build my business.”


To learn more about home-based workers and other informal workers in Thailand, read "Informal Workers in Bangkok, Thailand: Scan of Four Sectors".


Top photo: BANGKOK, THAILAND: Mayuri Suepwong, a single mother, took up home-based work in order to look after her children while generating income. Her daughter, Chamaiporn, helps her after school. Like other home-based workers, she sometimes has to work long hours to meet tight deadlines with irregular pay. Joining HomeNet Thailand has given Mayuri access to information on the rights and entitlements of home-based workers as well as opportunities to meet potential employers. Photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images Reportage.

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