Shouldering the Burden: Impacts of the Cost-of-Living Crisis on Workers in Informal Employment in Bangkok, Thailand

Marcela Valdivia, Ana Carolina Ogando, Poonsap Suanmuang Tulaphan

Valdivia, Marcela, Ana Carolina Ogando and Poonsap Tulaphan. 2024. Shouldering the Burden: Impacts of the Cost-of-Living Crisis on Workers in Informal Employment in Bangkok, Thailand. WIEGO Policy Brief No. 30. 

The qualitative data collected in this Policy Brief show how the cost-of-living crisis is affecting workers in informal employment in Bangkok. Key points include:

Livelihood challenges: Amid rising inflation, workers face supply and demand issues that impact their earnings. Many have resorted to working longer hours to make ends meet and avoid incurring further debt.

Increased food costs: A typical worker in the focus groups spent 56 per cent of their earnings on food. In mid-2023, 7 in 10 were spending more on food than in early 2023, and a third (33 per cent) spent more than 75 per cent of their earnings on food. Workers are reducing individual or household food consumption with potential short- and long-term impacts on food and nutrition security.

Cost-of-living concerns: Workers reported concerns with increases in their household food expenses, electricity and water bills, education expenses for children, and transportation costs.

Ongoing debt crisis: Half of the workers had incurred debt in the past year. Reasons included paying for business expenses, rent and food, education, and utilities. Debt ranged from THB 3,000 to THB 200,000, with monthly interest rates between 1 per cent and 20 per cent. Informal lenders were the most common source of loans.

Technological barriers and adaptations: Workers are using basic digital tools to improve their livelihoods, including cashless payments and online platforms to sell and promote their services and products. Technology also poses challenges to workers: motorcycle taxi drivers and street vendors face competition from digitally based alternatives to their services, such as ride-hailing apps and retail online selling. Older workers need technology upskilling to adapt to the digital transition.

Climate-change-related impacts: Workers perceive climate-related events as one of the drivers of inflation. Street vendors noted that flooding, drought, and excessive heat affect their businesses through increased prices of raw materials, damage to stalls and lower sales. Motorcycle taxi drivers spoke about their willingness to switch to electric vehicles, but noted affordability concerns.

Priority demands: There is great urgency for policies that can mitigate economic shocks and support livelihood development, particularly for women, older workers and others who are most impacted. This includes social protection policies that ensure equity for workers in informal employment, improving the adequacy of benefits and simplifying registration procedures. Moreso, government and the private sector should commit to securing the voices and representation of workers in decision-making and social dialogue processes.

Informal Economy Theme
Informal Economy Topic
Publication Type