Statistique, Développement et Droits de l‘Homme Session c-pa 5b

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Statistique, Développement et Droits de l‘Homme

Session C-Pa 5b

The Role of Population Census for Providing Statistics on Disadvantaged Groups in Thailand

Rossarin GRAY

The Role of Population Census for Providing Statistics on Disadvantaged Groups in Thailand

Rossarin GRAY

Director, Social Statistics Division, National Statistical Office

Larn-Luang Road

10100 Bangkok, Thailand

T. + 662 281 0333 ext 1900 F. + 662 282 5861


The Role of the Population Census for Providing Data on Disadvantaged Groups in Thailand
The 2000 Census of Population and Housing, just completed, will be both a primary source of information on aspects of disadvantage, and an essential step in constructing the frame for population surveys to probe aspects of disadvantage in Thailand. This paper concentrates on the census as a primary source of information. In terms of current concerns, disadvantaged groups in Thailand include the poor, the unemployed, internal migrants, refugees, illegal migrants, ethnic minorities, Thai Muslims, disabled people, child workers, sex workers, workers in occupations and industries with low productivity or sub-standard conditions, women and adolescents. The census does not provide any or much useful information on some of these topics. For example, many illegal migrants and refugees will be missed in the census enumeration, there is no information on income to measure poverty, children under 13 are not asked about labor force participation, and questions on disability did not work well in the 1990 Census. On the other hand, census questions on labor force participation, religion, language usually spoken, occupation, industry, education, sex, age, migration, household characteristics and possessions constitute a rich source of information about concentrations of disadvantage among individuals, families, geographic locations and types of work.


But du recensement de la population : fournir des données sur les groupes défavorisés en Thaïlande
Le recensement 2000 de la population et des logements, qui vient de s'achever, constituera non seulement une source essentielle d'informations concernant les aspects de la population défavorisée, mais aussi un pas important dans la réalisation d’une base pour des sondages démographiques permettant d’observer les populations défavorisées en Thaïlande. Ce document se consacre au recensement en tant que source principale d'informations. En termes de problèmes actuels, les groupes défavorisés en Thaïlande englobent les pauvres, les chômeurs, les sans-logis, les réfugiés, les immigrés illégaux, les minorités ethniques, les Musulmans thaïs, les handicapés, les enfants ouvriers, les personnes travaillant dans le milieu de la prostitution, les personnes travaillant dans des industries à faible productivité ou dans lesquelles les conditions de travail sont en dessous du seuil requis, les femmes et les adolescents. Le recensement ne nous fournit que peu de renseignements utiles sur certains de ces thèmes. Par exemple, de nombreux immigrés et réfugiés illégaux ne sont pas pris en compte dans ce sondage, il n’est fait aucune mention également des revenus, ce qui permet de mesurer le degré de pauvreté, les enfants de moins de 13 ans n'ont pas été interrogés sur leur participation en tant que main d'œuvre et les questions concernant les handicaps n'ont pas été efficaces lors du recensement de 1990. Par ailleurs, les questions du sondage sur la participation de la main d'œuvre, sur la religion, sur les langues les plus utilisées, les métiers, l'industrie, l’enseignement, le sexe, l'âge, les migrations, les caractéristiques des foyers et les biens constituent une source riche en informations quant à la concentration des désavantages rencontrés chez les individus, dans les familles, les emplacements géographiques et les catégories professionnelles.

1. Introduction

Thailand is a country at the centre of Southeast Asia. It has borders with Myanmar in the West, Laos and Cambodia in the East, and Malaysia in the South. For statistical purposes Thailand is divided into five major regions: Bangkok, Central, North, Northeast and South. The Thai population is usually said to be relatively homogeneous in terms of ethnicity, religion and language. According to the 1990 Population and Housing Census, about 95 per cent of the Thai were Buddhists and about 4 per cent were Muslims. Central Thai is the official language and is understood everywhere. Nevertheless, to varying extents, cultural differences characterize the five major regions. In the South, which contains the largest concentration of Muslims in Thailand, there is a separate Thai dialect, and the Malay language is spoken among Muslims. In the Northeast, Thai-Lao is prevalent. In the North, the Northen Thai dialect is common, and the members of the hill tribes speak their own languages. Thailand has also been facing the problem of illegal migrant workers from neighbouring countries, but reliable statistics for this group are not available.

Disadvantaged people constitute one of the current concerns of the Thai government, especially after the economic crisis that began in Thailand in 1997 and is continuing now. The disadvantaged groups include the poor, the unemployed, internal migrants, refugees, illegal migrants, ethnic minorities, Thai Muslims, the disabled, child workers, sex workers, workers in occupations and industries with low productivity or sub-standard conditions, women and adolescents. To plan, monitor, evaluate and implement the programmes for the disadvantaged groups, statistics of these groups need to be gathered comprehensively and systematically. The main sources for the data are surveys and censuses. However, surveys cannot give reliable and comprehensive statistics of minorities since the minorities are usually excluded from the sample, either by design or by representation by few cases. The census in Thailand is only the source that can produce reliable statistical information for small areas and statistics of minorities. In addition, the census can be used to construct frames for population surveys to probe aspects of disadvantage in Thailand.

2.The History of Census Taking in Thailand

Thailand’s census was first carried out in 1909, then in 1919, 1929, 1939 and 1949 by the Ministry of Interior. The National Statistical Office first carried out the census in 1960, according to the Statistics Act of 1952, and continues to do so at an interval of every 10 years thereafter according to the Statistics Act of 1965. This is in line with the UN recommendation to take a population and housing census every 10 years – in the year ending with “0” – to ensure that it is possible to compare censuses from different countries. Thailand complies with this recommendation even though the system for counting the years in Thailand refers to the Buddhist era, 543 years ahead of the Christian calendar. Since 1970 the housing census has been carried out simultaneously with the population census. In the year 2000, Thailand carried out the tenth population census and the fourth housing census.

3. Objectives and Utilization

The population and housing census aims at collection of statistical data on the demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of population, and housing situations, for example. age and sex structure, education, employment, fertility, migration and types and characteristics of housing.

Such data are vital to economic and social development planning, and research on population and housing conducted by academic institutes and other organizations locally and abroad. The population data are also used for population projection.

4. Coverage

4.1 Population Covered

  1. All Thai citizens residing in Thailand on Census Day (April 1, 2000).

  2. Thai residents, who were temporarily away on Census Day, e.g. on military training, journey by sea or a trip abroad.

  3. Thai civil/military diplomatic officers and their families in foreign countries.

  4. Foreign citizens having usual place of abode in Thailand or entering the country on temporary basis for 3 months before Census Day (April 1, 2000).

4.2 Population Not Covered

    1. Hilltribes with no fixed address (except those in well established villages).

    2. Foreign military and diplomatic officers and their families stationed in Thailand.

    3. Foreigners staying in the country for less than 3 months before Census Day.

    4. Refugees and illegal immigrants staying in the centres designated by the authorities.

4.3 Households Covered

The census includes all private households in the areas of population enumeration. The term “private household” means one or more persons living in the same dwelling, and sharing the same facilities, whether or not related to each other.

5. Questionnaire

The census questionnaires requested information on population and housing:

  1. Basic information consists of age, sex, relationship to head of household, marital status, religion, nationality, education, occupation, industry and work status, and languages usually spoken at home. (Short form)

  2. Detailed information consists of basic information and specific details on economic activities, labour force participation, fertility and migration. (Long form)

  3. Housing information consists of type of dwelling, tenure of dwelling, sources of drinking water and water supply, sources of cooking fuel, types of toilet, and types of household possessions.

6. Census Methodology

In general, taking a census involves enumeration of data on all members of the families and households within the census areas. Complete enumeration requires a high budget and large workforce. Therefore, the following methods were used: All persons and households were listed and simultaneously enumerated with the short form questionnaire for basic information (see 4 above) except for sample households. The sample households, which were 20 per cent of households in every area, also asked for more detailed information and housing information, using a long form. The self-enumeration questionnaires were based on the short form.

7. Limitation of the Census in Providing Statistics of the Disadvantaged

The census operation is the largest scale of data collection . Some sensitive questions have not worked well when attempted in the censuses of various countries, varying to some extent with the socio-cultural context. In Thailand these topics include ethnicity, disability and income. Ethnicity has never been asked in censuses in Thailand, although language usually spoken has been asked since 1980 and can be used to some extent as a representation of ethnicity.

The national population censuses and surveys do not yet attempt to enumerate all members of hill tribe groups, although the number left outside the scope of the census is now almost negligible because nearly all hill tribe groups live in fixed settlements. People who shift their habitant or are otherwise outside the regular administrative system of the government of Thailand are unlikely to be enumerated completely and are in any case outside the scope of the census, and the people who do not usually speak the language of their hill tribe group may be enumerated but remain unidentifiable as members of their ethnic group. Those who usually speak hill tribe languages might also include some people of Thai or other ethnicity.

Questions on disability were asked in 1970 and 1990, but were regarded as producing markedly incomplete enumerations of actual levels of disability. Since this topic is suitable for inclusion in sample surveys, it has been investigated in supplementary surveys attached to the quarterly labour force survey and ultimately based on the census sampling frame. The last such statistics were collected in 1996, in the Health and Welfare survey, and will be collected again in 2001. The survey data, like the census data, are regarded as incomplete representations of the extent of disability in Thailand. No data on disability will be available from the 2000 census.

Questions on income have not yet been considered suitable for inclusion on census forms in Thailand, but income and expenditure are investigated in depth in the annual Socio-Economic Survey.

Refugees or illegal immigrations located in camps provided by the government were not in the census coverage. In theory, the number of foreign workers can be obtained from the question on nationality, which was asked in the 2000 Census for the first time since 1970, but it cannot be known whether people of non-Thai nationality are legal or illegal. Moreover, if they are illegal workers they may not give true information on nationality or they might evade enumeration.

8. Statistics of Disadvantaged Groups

Despite the limitations of available information, census questions on labour force participation, religion, language usually spoken at home, nationality, occupation, industry, education, sex, age, migration, household characteristics and possessions constitute a rich source of information about concentrations of disadvantaged among individuals, families, geographic locations and types of work. In this section of the paper we discuss the use of this information in providing statistics for key areas of disadvantage.

8.1 The poor

While the poor cannot be identified in terms of income in the census, information from the Socio-Economic Survey can be used to identify occupations and industries that are associated with low income, and the location information of the census can then be used to provide the geographical detail that is lacking from the survey data.

Secondly, this indirect information can be associated with more direct information about household possessions and household characteristics to map the distribution of poverty across Thailand and its association with household composition in terms of gender and age groups.

8.2 The Unemployed

After the onset of the economic crisis in Thailand, the Labour Force Survey was extended to four rounds a year, in February, May, August and November (since 1998) and the survey will become monthly in 2001. This survey, ultimately based on census information, provides the detailed information needed for monitoring socio-economic recovery, but it cannot provide the geographical detail and cross-reference to other socio-economic characteristics that the census can provide. The 2000 Census information on the distribution of unemployment will become available at a very timely point for social monitoring purposes during the continuing period of economic recovery.

8.3 Internal Migrants

As for other topics, information on internal migration is also available from survey sources, but the rich detail from the census at the local level is available from no other source. The depletion of rural communities as a result of urbanization is a matter of increasing concern in some areas of Thailand, but to determine the effects accurately requires a complete assessment of sources, destinations and net movements at a local level.

At the migrant destinations, the concentrations of migrants in occupations and industries that are associated with low income and exploitative conditions can be identified more precisely from census data.

8.4 Refugees and Illegal Migrants

Neither census nor survey in Thailand can provide information about refugees and illegal migrants.

8.5 Ethnic Minorities

The hill tribe groups in Thailand are disadvantaged in economic, educational and health terms, while their demographic characteristics are distinctive. To the extent that they can be identified separately using information on language, detailed statistical information on hill tribe groups is available only from the census. (A special hill tribe census was also carried out, in 1986-1987, but the information is now dated.) Since the language item of information was obtained on the short form in the 2000 Census, small-area statistics on hill tribe groups are feasible. While available from previous censuses, the data have not been used extensively in the past except for analysis of distinctive demographic characteristics.

8.6 Thai Muslims

Unlike the hill tribes, Thai Muslims are an easily-identifiable group. In four cross-border provinces in the south of Thailand (Narathiwat, Pattani, Sathun and Yala) Muslims constitute a majority of the population, and they are very large minorities in all other provinces of the south. Substantial population also exist in other parts of the country. The religion question in the census provides a reliable means of identification of the Muslim population and its characteristics.

8.7 The Disabled

As discussed earlier, censuses and surveys have not so far provided good information on the extent of disability in Thailand. Attention is currently being given to the Health and Welfare Survey 2001 and the possibilities it presents for obtaining better information on chronic and short-term disability.

8.8 Child Workers

Child labour is illegal in Thailand and no information is available from official censuses and surveys.

8.9 Sex Workers

Detail in the census classification of occupation does allow the identification of commercial sex workers, and industry classification also allows for the establishments associated with sex work to be identified, but it is likely that statistics derived in this way will be incomplete because of reluctance of census respondents to reveal their occupations to be sex workers. ‘Indirect’ sex workers, who have occupations in service industries but might also provide sexual services on request, are particularly difficult to identify.

8.10 Workers in Occupations and Industries with Low Productivity or Sub-standard Conditions

More than any other source of data, the census can provide information in the detail available to investigate the numbers and locations of workers in occupations industries that have been indentified from other sources as suffering from declining markets as a result of changing global conditions, or that are known for their sweatshop conditions. This social indicator data can be used to inform labour market programs suitable for the conditions of each province.

8.11 Women

The National Statistical Office has provided special publications on gender statistics during the 1990s and will use information from the 2000 Census in a similar way to identify the extent of disadvantage suffered by women across the range of socio-economic characteristics provided from the census source. These characteristics are very well-suited to identifying the institutional sources of disadvantage that afflict women. Uniquely, the census allows the household structures in which these disadvantages are most prevalent to be identified.

8.12 Adolescents

The World Health Organization defines “adolescence” as the age group 10-19, and “youth” as the age group 15-24. Adolescents are usually identified as disadvantaged in terms of their lack of access to services such as reproductive health services, and the risk factors to which they are exposed. The census does not provide any information about these concerns, but it is does provide the background information about household structures in which adolescents and youth are located, and the economic activities of adolescents and youth.

9. Conclusion: A Publications Program for Statistics of Disadvantage

Section 8 provides a broad framework for a program of publication of information on disadvantage from the 2000 Census of Thailand, and the framework might be useful for consideration by other countries. The form that this publication activity might take would need to be considered in terms of the needs of the Royal Thai Government. In particular much of the potential information set out here is likely to be considered and used in the process of social monitoring that began after the economic crisis, rather than published in special publications. In other cases, the National Statistical Office will consider publication after assessing the utility, scope and accuracy of the information obtained under the various topics.


Some findings of the preliminary results of the 2000 Population and Housing Census

  • Face to face interview was the main method for data collection. The fieldwork period was from April 1, 2000 to April 30, 2000. The questionnaires were filled by the enumerators. Self-enumeration forms were used in some areas, especially in Bangkok.

  • The preliminary results were released in early August as scheduled (three months after the fieldwork). They provide information on the number of people, the number of households, growth rates, population density and sex ratio for each region and each province, classified by municipal and non-municipal areas, as well as the whole kingdom of Thailand.

  • For the purpose of this paper, some preliminary results were selected for discussion. They are the growth rates and sex ratios in each province.

  • Size of population, annual population growth rate

  • On April 1, 2000, Thailand had a population of 60,607,619 out of which 29, 851, 955 were males and 30, 755, 664 were females.

  • Thailand had a population of 8.2 million at the time of its first census in 1909 and the number increased to 17.4 million at the time of its fifth census in 1947. The first five censuses were undertaken by the Ministry of Interior. The National Statistical Office began to carry out a population census in 1960, and it has continued to do so every 10 years since then. The population was 26.3 million in 1960, 54.5 million in 1990 and 60.6 million in 2000 (Table A).

  • Although the size of population increased each time a census is taken, the annual population growth rate significantly declined, according to the censuses taken by the National Statistic Office since 1960.2/ From 1990 to 2000, the annual population growth rate was 1.05 per cent, the lowest recorded rate of intercensal growth since the first census. The annual population growth rate was 2.70 per cent from 1960 to 1970, 2.65 per cent from 1970 to 1980 and 1.96 per cent from 1980 to 1990.

  • In the year 2000, municipal areas had a population of 18, 844, 712, accounting for 31.1 per cent compared with 18.7 per cent in 1990. 3/ The high rate of increase can be attributed in part to the 981 sanitary districts reclassified as Tambon municipalities in 1999.

  • The annual population growth rate between 1990 to 2000 (Map 1) was relatively high in some of the provinces of the Vicinity of Bangkok, namely Pathum Thani ( 4.84 per cent), Samut Sakhon (3.54 per cent) and Nonthaburi (3.43 per cent), and the provinces with a common border with Myanmar, namely Tak Province (3.68 per cent) and Ranong Provice (3.20 per cent). Phuket in the South also had a relatively high annual growth rate of 3.68 per cent. The growth rate of Trat province which has a commond boundary with Cambodia was about 2.94 per cent. The growth rate in every province in the North was below one per cent, except Tak and Mae Hong Son. Every province in the Northeast had a growth rate of about one per cent. Provinces in the South had higher growth rates than those in the Northeast but below two per cent. The exceptions were Phuket and Ranong. The relative high growth rates of the provinces along the borders between Thailand and Myanmar and Thailand and Cambodia were probably due to migrant workers form the neighbouring countries.

Montreux, 4. – 8. 9. 2000

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