In late 2018, it was announced that about 600,000 students considered to be ‘very poor’ will receive an extra $24 per semester by the Equitable Education Fund (EEF), created by the government .
Inequalities are a concern and a recent report by Credit Suisse named Thailand the most unequal country in the world, with one percent of the population owning two thirds of its wealth.
Using the World Inequality Database on Education (WIDE) we can see how far some of the inequalities stretch. While almost all the richest on average complete lower secondary education, this drops to just 67% for the poorest young men in urban areas.
The 2017 Thai constitution makes a provision for EEF to be an independently managed fund. As a result EEF has an independent board, appointed by the cabinet but nominated by the Independent Committee for Education Reform. EEF’s programmes and budget are developed and implemented independently. This new public fund targeting the poorest indicates that solutions to education exclusion require innovative thinking.
It is a decision that respects the impact that an education can have on helping households to escape poverty. In particular, ensuring that most people have completed secondary schooling is an essential condition of reducing inequality within countries. In Brazil, France and Malaysia, income inequality, as captured by the Gini coefficient, fell by about seven percentage points over two decades, as the share of the population with secondary education grew. In Malaysia, the share of adults with secondary education increased from 20% in 1980 to 48% in 2000, while the Gini coefficient fell from 0.51 to 0.44.
Globally, we estimated that achieving universal primary and secondary attainment in the adult population would help to lift more than 420 million out of poverty, thus reducing the number of poor worldwide by more than half.
The recent Credit Suisse report says that the bottom 10% of Thais hold 0% of the country’s wealth, being either in debt or having no documented household income. The rapid economic growth since the 1950s has lifted segments out of poverty but has still left many behind. Some say that this is because spending on social services has remained stagnant.
This could be a real turning point for the poorest in the country. We hope to open Credit Suisse’s report this time next year and see that it has.
This blog post was last edited on 28 February 2019.