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Economic Impact

Changes in the Economic Structure: Impacts on National Health Insurance System, Access to Health services, Human Security and Long-term elderly care in Thailand

Project undertaken by: Associate Prof. Dr. Siripen Supakankunti and Team

About research:Since the Thai financial crisis in 1997 and 1998, the country has changed in terms of its social and economic aspects. Economic growth rates have decreased and Thailand has been struggling to escape the middle-income trap. The impacts of these changes have important implications for the country’s fiscal position. In 2002, for example, universal health coverage was achieved with the implementation of the Universal Health Coverage Scheme, which is financed through, and thus relies on, general government revenue. In addition, Thailand also faces the manifold social challenges of an ageing society. In the end, these changes affect the economic and health security, two components of the human security of the country.



This study conducted

(i) an analysis of the changes in the Thai economic structure using input-output / shift-share analysis,
(ii) focus group discussions in Thailand’s four regions to understand how changes in the structure of Thailand’s economy affect the economic and health security of formal sector workers, as well as
(iii) a review of the national health insurance system in Thailand (focusing on the impacts of economic changes on the national health insurance system, including access to health services), and
(iv) a review of models for the long-term care in urban areas to offer policy recommendations.

Focusing on (ii), the discussions held in 2017 with key stakeholders revealed the following pressing issues:

  1. Economic security

One of the major threats to economic security identified by stakeholders is the quality and the attitude of the new generation of labor. Across all four regions, stakeholders agreed that the young generation is in constant search for the highest remuneration with lowest possible work effort, and fails to pay attention to other important aspects such as assured employment or, crucially, skills development. The new generation of labor is also viewed as possessing weak accountability and low persistence, causing conflicts with the older generation and impeding the smooth operation of companies. The labor issues in the four regions also have some unique features, demanding region-specific labor policies. For example, companies in the South reported hiring a large number of migrant workers from neighboring countries for operating level jobs due to the fact that the new generation of Thai labor refuses to do this type of work and prefers to stay at home if they cannot get any other work. Employing migrant workers, however, is complex and time-consuming. Companies in the central plains face the issue of an insufficient number of skilled workers, pushing them to launch recruitment campaigns at vocational schools across Thailand, which is costly. The second major issue identified by stakeholders is the inability of day labor to accumulate wealth to deal with future threats, making them highly vulnerable in the absence of adequate social safety nets. The concerns here are (i) the failure of the minimum wage to keep up with increasing living expenses, and (ii) the lack of basic financial skills.

  1. Health security

Stakeholders across the regions discussed the Social Security Scheme and identified the following major threats to health security: (i) low quality of services (e.g. attitude of health professionals towards patients), (ii) long waiting times and (iii) (worker-perceived) low quality of drugs and medical care. Many workers, in fact, deemed the scheme “useless” and would choose not to contribute to the scheme if legally possible. Not surprisingly, middle-aged and older workers considered private employee group health insurance one of the most important fringe benefits. Also, stakeholders considered the maximum base wage of THB 15,000 for old-age benefits calculation insufficient. Besides, they would prefer to invest these savings themselves as they feel that Social Security Fund is not managed in the best interest of the beneficiaries.

Regarding long-term care for the elderly, stakeholders were of the opinion that parents should be taken care of by family members and generally objected to utilizing the services of long-term care institutions. Community initiatives are highly valued and stakeholders would like local administration to support systems that would make it possible for the elderly to remain at home, such as local or community clubs, where the elderly could get together and socialize, as well as day care centers.

Innovative edible film from biopolymers

Partner: Waiting for up-scale production and commercialization

About research: Department of Food Technology, Faculty of Science, Chulalongkorn University has various research studies regarding the development of carbohydrate and protein based edible films. Those films can be used as food packaging, where they can readily be consumed together with the foods, and are 100% biodegradable. These films provide unique characteristics, including a high gloss and transparent appearance, good barrier properties, and can incorporate desirable compounds, such as antioxidants and antimicrobial agents, in order to increase the shelf life of the food products.

Failure of Medical Device Startup and Pathways to Succeed in Thailand

Project undertaken by: Faculty of Engineering, Chulalongkorn University

Partner: Group of companies that want to commercialize medical devices

About research: Startup companies have received increasing attention for more than a decade, since research shows that startup companies can drive the economy of both individual countries and globally. However, the failure rate of startup companies is high, with estimates of around 20%. Especially in the healthcare industry, funding is very important for a startup company to survive. We found that many startup companies in the healthcare industry focus on medical devices more than pharmaceutical, because of the core competency, knowledge and funding of existing pharmaceutical firms make it very hard for startup companies to survive in the market. However, the failure rate of startup companies in the medical device industry is still high, largely due to stagnation or failure at the commercialization and diffusion part (Phase 5-6 of Cooper’s Stage-gate new product development process). This research focussed on the causes of failed medical device startup companies and defined the causes as criteria (from both literature reviews and questionnaires). These criteria were then used to construct platforms and pathways in the commercialization and diffusion product development process in the medical device industry

Starter culture for “Plara”, a Thai-style fermented fish product, to accelerate the fermentation process and enhance food safety.

Partner: Waiting for up-scale production and commercialization

About research: Technology for the production of a starter culture for “Plara”, a Thai-style fermented fish product, has been developed. The starter cultures are produced with the raw materials used in the Plara production, via a simplified production technology. The starter culture can be added directly into the fermentation system, accelerating the process by reducing at least 50% of the fermentation time, and yielding a product with similar characteristics to that obtained from the traditional fermentation. Moreover, during fermentation using this starter culture, the growth of the pathogens can be inhibited and so increasing the safety of the final products. For further information, please contact Assoc. Prof. Cheunjit Prakitchaiwattana (

A Research Project for Promoting Investment Knowledge in Response to the Needs for New Tourism Market: Halal Tourism Market

Partner: Tourism Authority of Thailand

About research: A key objective is to provide knowledge-based suggestions on investment and marketing aspects in Halal tourism. In parallel with conducting research work, a survey has also been conducted in order to collect information on tourist attractions, businesses and services that support the tourism industry.


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