Thailand is a country which is still affected by the stigma of poverty and the criminal activity which still manages to grab the headlines despite the fact the authorities have, and continue to, clampdown on these issues. Therefore, it is not surprising that our survey received very little in the way of votes from those living in Thailand who have moved from overseas.
However, this gives us the perfect opportunity to look at the reasons suggested by those who took part in the poll we conducted in conjunction with Barclays Wealth International and also cover in brief the aspects of a country which is perhaps overlooked.
Main reasons for those who dared to live their particular adventures as expats in Thailand were retirement, with nearly the 45% of the vote, Employment (22.22%), Weather (11.11%) and Travel the world (11.11%).
The fact that retirement is number one in the list of reasons why people move to Thailand, with 44% of the vote, will come as no surprise to anybody who has even remotely investigated the country. It is an area of the world which has fallen behind somewhat with regards to historic economic expansion and it is still possible to obtain a fairly high standard of living for what many in the UK would consider a fairly low level of income or savings.
When you also take into account the culture of the country, the beautiful landscapes, the welcome from the people and other aspects of Thailand it is not difficult to see why many people still consider retiring to the region. The authorities have been clamping down upon immigration although in a world where poverty is still very visible on the streets, there is no doubt that money does talk. Business opportunities, property development and other areas of everyday Western investment life are very accessible to those with money, and even more if you own an international bank account.
Countries such as Thailand are often considered a form of emerging economy which have moved towards a newly industrialised country. The growth rate of the Thailand economy between 1985 and 1996 averaged a massive 12.4% although this did put pressure on the Thailand currency. Currency issues brought Thailand to its knees in the 1990s and despite the fact that the currency was pegged to the US dollar between 1978 and 1997 it was very involved in the Asian financial crisis.
We have seen record numbers of takeovers and mergers in Thailand between 1997 and 2010 although despite the fact that new Labour markets have been introduced, just under 50% of those employed in Thailand work in the agriculture industry. However, this is a significant improvement on the 70% in the 1980s and hopefully as imports and exports continue to grow, new markets are introduced and overseas investment continues to rise we will see more improvement in the employment market. Many Western companies have a presence in Thailand which is perhaps one of the reasons why employment is second on the list of reasons to move to the country.
Thailand itself is situated in Central/Southeast Asia and is surprisingly the 51st largest country in the world in terms of surface area. As a consequence, you can guess that the weather in Thailand is very reflective of the region and perhaps this is one of the major reasons why many people are attracted by the climate. The official climate of Thailand is characterised as tropical although as with many countries in the region it is susceptible to regular monsoons. The weather can be rainy, warm and cloudy from mid-May to September and cool and dry from November to March. It obviously depends upon which country you are moving from as to whether the climate in Thailand is attractive but many people seem to enjoy the tropical climate and many people have retired to the region.
Travel the world (11.11%)
As we touched on above, Thailand is one of the largest countries in the world and has a massive population which brings in different cultures, different experiences and different ways of life across the board. These are the kind of enormous countries which attract more than their fair share of international travellers looking for new experiences and there are certainly many areas of Thailand to explore!
While new and exciting countries have benefited from the Internet there is no doubt that Thailand has for many years been a popular destination for those looking to widen their horizons. Despite political uncertainty in the past, which to a certain extent still exists today, many people feel safer now than ever travelling around the different areas of Thailand. You obviously need to do your homework before looking to move to the region, whether short, medium or long-term, but there are more than enough expat forums and travel guides to help. As a handy tip for your coming travels, think of having a bank account that allows you to make international payments, as you will find yourself using it quite often!
While there were no votes for taxation as a reason for moving to Thailand there have been recent developments on this particular front with the Thailand authorities looking to reduce corporation tax, reduce personal tax and reduced consumption tax. It also seems as though plans for a property tax in Thailand have been abolished as this would have impacted upon those at the wealthier end of the scale, the exact people that the authorities wish to invest in the economy.
Balancing tax income for the Thailand authorities against the need to invest in the economy is a very difficult procedure. However, it seems that the authorities, who recently introduced a minimum wage, are now bringing the Thailand economy and Thailand government fiscal policies in line with those of the Western world. Despite the fact that Thailand has a population of around 66 million people it is believed that only 9 million actually file their tax returns. Indeed, official figures suggest that only 2.5 million people are actually liable to tax net of deductions!
While there is no doubt that the standard of living in many areas of Thailand has increased dramatically over the last 20 years or so there is also no doubt that many people still live in abject poverty. The recent introduction of the minimum wage has the potential to change the standard of living for millions of Thai nationals but the truth is that many expats are attracted to the region because of not only the potentially high standard of living but also the relatively low cost of living.
It is possible to purchase large properties in Thailand for relative little money, compared to property market in the UK, and literally be waited on hand and foot 24 hours a day seven days a week. Barclays Wealth have put together a handy guide to banking in Thailand that can help you to make your mind when time comes to invest in property or other assets at your reach iin the country.
In line with the standard of living, the overall cost of living in Thailand is relatively low compared to countries such as the UK, perhaps one of the main reasons why UK expats are attracted to the region. However, as the Thailand economy continues to consolidate and move ahead there is potential for the overall cost of living to increase as disposable income increases in many areas of the Thai population. The value for money available for expats moving to Thailand will vary from place to place because the larger cities are very westernised while some of the more remote country settlements are very underdeveloped. Quite simply, whatever your budget, whatever your financial situation and whatever your requirements, there is likely to be an area of Thailand applicable for your situation.
Romance and the adult industry very often seem to go hand in hand with regards to many people living and moving to Thailand. Despite the fact that the authorities have certainly clamped down on Western visitors there for immoral reasons, romance and the adult industry still tend to go hand-in-hand. It is therefore perhaps no surprise that no votes were received with regards to romance as a reason for moving to Thailand, especially taking into account the heavy stigma attached to the region.
Crime and corruption are evident in many countries in Asia and where you see the potential for significant economic growth, and business activity, the chances of coming across crime will increase dramatically. Even though there is no doubt that the Thai authorities have been clamping down on criminal activity in the region there is still a long way to go before it is “acceptable” in the eyes of many people. It is unfortunate that Thailand has attracted a stigma over the years with regards to various illicit activities and while slowly but surely this stigma is lifting it will impact the thoughts and minds of many expats looking for pastures new.
Other reasons (11.11%)
While there were a number of comments with regards to other reasons to move to the country, these were of a comedy nature and not worthwhile mentioning.
The very fact that retirement was the number one reason to move to Thailand in the eyes of 40% of those involved in our online poll says everything. This is a country which has been wracked by poverty issues for many years and a government which has been very unstable at times. Indeed there have been accusations of crime and corruption right through the Thai economy, up to the higher echelons of the government.
However, the authorities have made progress with regards to economic growth, controlling crime and keeping out “undesirables” which is slowly but surely helping the country’s reputation. It is unfortunate that the country has been wracked by this stigma of years gone by because it offers a beautiful landscape, varied climate, interesting history and culture which still seems to attract a number of expats. Hopefully the ongoing changes and ongoing development of Thailand will continue into the future.