“Factories are closing everywhere – and now the women are being approached by sex traffickers asking if they want to go and work in the west.” Jitra Kotchadet, union leader, Thailand
“I lost my job, I’ve been evicted from my house and my belongings confiscated by the landlord. Now I rent a small room with my husband and two children. We’ve had to cut our spending on food.” Kim Sunheap, Cambodia
These quotes lead a story in The Observer which points out that the ongoing economic crisis affects the vulnerable most. In particular, women, especially poor women, are disproportionately affected. Author Ruth Sunderland summarises an Oxfam report on the effects of the crisis:
“Millions will lose their jobs without any safety net – Oxfam cites cases of women being forced to sign resignation letters so their employers can avoid paying redundancy; families will go hungry; there will be lower levels of schooling for girls; and, most horrific of all, the World Bank predicts the crunch will cause a surge in infant mortality, with up to 2.8 million more babies dying between now and 2015 if the crisis persists. The Bank points out that falls in GDP lead to much greater increases in female infant mortality than male. No explanation is offered for this discrepancy; the likely causes scarcely bear thinking about.”
Meanwhile, a new study by the Asian Development Bank points out that recessions in Asian countries generally are more severe and have longer-lasting effects than for OECD nations (that is, the world’s 30 largest economies). Asian economies (and Thailand in particular) are strongly linked to the global economy but in ways which make them particularly vulnerable to recessions – OECD countries have outsourced a great deal of manufacturing and service activities to Asian countries and, when there are bad times, the demand for those goods and services decreases sharply.
The recession is likely to be severe in Thailand throughout 2009 and probably for another year after that. It is unfortunate that the PAD disaster has simultaneously done so much damage to the tourism industry: hotels in Koh Samui are slashing prices by up to 70% to try to lure some traffic – tourism figures are projected to be down 20-30% on last year (and that seems an optimistic projection).