Final Research Sample


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Final Research Sample

  1. 1. GEND489: Research Essay in Gender and Womens Studies.“What Effect Does Colonisation and WesternInfluences and Culture Have on Thai Society, Women and Organizations” Win Singphatanakul 300066606 Supervisors: Adjunct Professor Prue Hyman and Dr. Alison Laurie 1
  2. 2. CONTENTS1: INTRODUCTION...............................................................................................................................32: METHODOLOGY..............................................................................................................................5 2.1). Purpose of the Study................................................................................................................5 2.2). The Nature of the Study...........................................................................................................5 2.3). What Theoretical Lens Will I Use?..........................................................................................63: LITERATURE REVIEW...................................................................................................................7 3.1). Language Barriers and Western Literature............................................................................74: DISCUSSION OF MY FINDINGS..................................................................................................20 4.1). Statistical Facts.....................................................................................................................20 4.2). Thai Social Norms and the West Social Norms.....................................................................22 4.3). Multinational Companies .....................................................................................................26 4.4). Socio-Economic Status..........................................................................................................29 4.5). Education...............................................................................................................................32 4.6). Western Literature on Discrimination...................................................................................35 4.7). Western Standard of Living (GDP) vs. Eastern Standard of Living (GNH).........................38 4.8). Limitation...............................................................................................................................405: FUTURE RESEARCH.....................................................................................................................426: CONCLUSION..................................................................................................................................43APPENDIX 1..........................................................................................................................................45 Table 1: Female Employment Rate................................................................................................45 Table 2: Number and Percentage of Employed Persons Aged 15 Years and Over by Industry and Sex (in millions).............................................................................................................................46 Table 3: Number of Employed Persons Over 15 Years of Age in a 1-Year Period by Sex (in millions) .........47 Table 4: Average Monthly Total Income and Current Income by Region: 2006..........................47 Table 6: Number of Male and Female Students by Educational Level for Academic Year 2000 ........................................................................................................................................................49 Table 7: Number of Employees by Level of Wages/Salary and Sex...........................................49APPENDIX 2 ........................................................................................................................................50 Figure 1: Thai Woman Mahout (Elephant Driver). ......................................................................50 Figure 2: Gender Statistics in “The Key Statistics of Thailand 2007”.........................................51 Figure 3: The 10th National Economic and Social Development Plan for the years 2007-2011. 51 Figure 4: The Philosophy of Sufficiency Economy........................................................................52REFERENCES.......................................................................................................................................53 2
  3. 3. 1: IntroductionThis study is about the position of women in Thailand. My research questionaddresses whether Thai women can be regarded as ‘colonised’ and whether they canlegitimately be regarded as oppressed and subservient.I will argue that Western feminist theory positions itself as a universal authority,which is not always applicable to non-Western cultures and circumstances. In order toaddress my research question, I have conducted a small study of published reports onthe economic position of Thai women, generalising from Western culture to Thaiculture. I argue that the differences of language and of interpretation can misleadresearchers into assuming it is a universal position for all women. My report alsodebates on whether the socio-economic status is a greater indicator of inequality thangender in the Thai environment.In addition, I will also argue that equality can be achieved through the ‘GrossNational Happiness’ (GNH) policy. GNH is unlike the Gross Domestic Product(GDP), which concentrates on capital value that does not reflect the quality andhappiness of individuals. Many countries use GDP as shorthand for the well-being ofa nation. However, GNH, unlike GDP, does not only consider economic growth butalso consider the general happiness of people (Mustafa, 2005; Rodsuthi, 2007). Thereis substantial literature on the GHP policy, in particular regarding its application inBhuatan, but it is beyond the scope of this research to discuss the Bhutan situation.Thus, I will focus my discussion on the situation in Thailand.A research objective is to look at the effect colonisation has played in South-EastAsia. The culture, history and language of Thailand have been, over time, influenced 3
  4. 4. by neighbouring colonised countries. However, Thailand itself has escaped actualcolonisation by Western powers. Thai culture and history therefore remain traditionalwith little influence from the West.Nevertheless, the effect of colonisation has relatively affected Thai society and shapedThai women’s lives according to some postcolonial literature, which suggests thatThailand developed a semi-colonial status. Since there is little literature written byThai scholars on Thailand, and with most of it written in English by Westerners, it isdifficult for Thai people to understand and translate. Therefore, the effect of theEnglish language as part of colonisation will be discussed below showing how itshapes Thai society and women’s lives in Thailand.In addition, since Western literature seems to portray Thailand as one of theircolonised countries, gender issues in Thailand are also being observed through theWestern theoretical lens. This research will explore the understanding of Thai womenand gender issues from the Western point of view and whether their analysis isreliable or not.Furthermore, this research will look at Thai women’s participation in the workforceand analyse what causes gender discrimination in Thailand because literature ongender studies from the West emphasise gender equality through economicachievements. This research will also investigate the claim from Western scholarsabout the effects of colonisation, whether there is input from the substantial influencesfrom Western culture and value in Thai society and organisations. 4
  5. 5. 2: MethodologyThis section looks at how data was obtained and includes questions related tosampling, research design and data collection methods (Cavana, Delahaye, &Sekaran, 2001).2.1). Purpose of the StudyThis research will be conducted as an exploratory study because there is limitedliterature on the effect of colonisation on Thailand and the issue that the study isexamining has been the subject of very few research projects. In addition, I aminterested in exploring the situational factors so as to understand the characteristics ofcolonisation in a non-colonial country. For this particular study, I am trying tounderstand the relationship between colonisation and Thai women’s lives. I usewomen’s participation in the workforce in Thailand as one of the examples to answermy research question “What effect does colonisation and Western influences andculture have on Thai society, women and organizations”2.2). The Nature of the StudyThe research question asks questions that involve human behaviour. Thus, I initiallywanted to collect the data through interviews but due to the inevitable limited scope ofan honours research paper I will not be conducting any interviews that involve humansubjects. Instead, this research will be exploratory only, consisting of a literaturereview using secondary resources such as newspaper articles, academic articles and 5
  6. 6. statistical data, together with my discussion of these resources based on theoreticalreadings and my own experience.This material will be compared and contrasted to answer the research question. First,and foremost, articles on Thai women written by Westerners and Thai people will bediscussed and compared. Statistical data will be obtained from the Thailand countryreport to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination AgainstWomen (CEDAW) available online and used as back-up evidence of the claim I willbe making in the Discussion chapter. Post-colonial theory will be used to help withthe analysis. The analysis and interpretation will be mainly based on my experiencesas a Thai person. Thus, it is, inevitably, a subjective interpretation of the situation andliterature. In order to develop my argument, it is important for me to differentiate factfrom opinion.2.3). What Theoretical Lens Will I Use?My aim is to understand the effects of colonisation in a non-colonised country. In thisresearch, my study will be focused on Thailand. How does colonisation affect Thaiwomen and their participation in the workforce? After gaining much informationthough international databases and internet, I have found that most literature isderived from European writers. Obviously, gender development and gender studiesare influenced by the West. Therefore, in this research I will turn the tables aroundand look at how Western literature shape and influence Thai women at work andhome. Post-colonial theory will be used as an analysis tool to encounter the westernliterature. In addition, it should be noted that in this study there are a few studieswhich are written in the English language that look at gender issues in Thailand froman Asian point of view. 6
  7. 7. 3: Literature Review3.1). Language Barriers and Western LiteratureThai is the predominant member of the Thai family of languages which includesaround 60 languages spoken throughout Southeast Asia. Thai languages are difficultto place linguistically but are usually linked to either the Sino-Tibetan or Austronesianlanguage families (Wood, 1993). Standard Thai is written in the Thai alphabet whichis derived from the Indian Devanagari script, and characterized by the use of fivetones, whereas English is classified as an Indo-European language and is part of theGermanic subfamily (Baugh & Cable, 2001). The English language is also believed tobe constructed by dominant males, for instance, the word God usually refers to a mannot a woman, because God is seen as a father figure with a strong personality, andwomen are viewed as inferior to men who are passive, dependent and emotional. Inaddition, English derogatory words used for women such as “whore” and “bitch” areoften more sexualised than derogatory words for men (Penelope, 1990; Spender,1985).English-related languages include Dutch, Flemish and the low German dialects and,more distinctly, modern German. The English language is the primary language of themajority of people who live in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada,Australia, New Zealand and other former colonies of Britain, and in the United States.It is also an official or semi-official language of many countries with a colonial pastsuch as India, Nigeria, Pakistan, and South Africa (Microsoft Encarta, 2007). 7
  8. 8. According to Said (1978) the English language in Western literature has played amajor role in influencing world intellectuals and their understanding about the world.The fact is, that much feminist literature is derived from the West, and is written inWestern languages. Cameron’s work (1988) suggest that these writings would not beapplicable to the Thai situation - because to understand the Thai worldview on genderand sex traditions and practices, and in order to understand any country’s culture, onemust first understand that country’s language (Cameron, 1998). Cameron’s research isderived from the famous controversial hypothesis which was developed by Sapir(1949) and Whorf (1976) back in the 19th century “our worldview is determined bythe structures of the particular language that we happen to speak”.Authors, such as Jackson and Cook (1999), label Western feminist literature and ideasas misleading because the terms sex and gender are not applicable in the Thailanguage as Thai indigenous language does not differentiate between sex and gender(Thanprasertsuka et al., 2005). However, feminist western theory and languagesdistinguish sex and gender as a separate matter (Jackson & Cook, 1999). ProfessorJumnong Thongprasirt classified the terms sex and gender into a singular matter (TheRoyal Institute, 2006). Discursive terms such as biological sex, gender, and sexualexpressions are referred to as a single term in the Thai language. He explains the word‘phet’ as the most problematic loanword from the Sanskrit language and it is not aclear single word that can be interpreted as either sex or gender. The official Thailanguage institution describes the word ‘phet’ as either a physical look or behaviouralexpression which distinguishes man and woman (The Royal Institute, 2006).Scholars, such as Esterik (2000) and Jackson (1999) comment that the word ‘phet’ isone of the most multivalent and polysemic words in the Thai language. In the official 8
  9. 9. Thai-English dictionary from the Thailand National Electronic and ComputerTechnology Centre (2007), ‘phet’ is a single complex meaning of sex and gendercombined and quite often the word ‘phet’ usually simply means sex appearance.As a result, the international terms and concepts ‘feminist’ and ‘gender’ are difficultto translate and understood in Thai because the English term ‘gender’ is itself aloanword from the Norman Conquest-era Middle French. This, in turn, originatedfrom Latin (The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 2000). Inthe East, most of the languages are not influenced by Latin but instead by the Sanskritlanguage where gender and sex are hard to distinguish (Muecke, 2004). This isdespite the fact that both Sanskrit and Latin are Indo-European languages as theselanguages and cultures developed differently between the West and the East.When comparing the literature, we can see the differences between the Thaigender/sex system and the West gender/sex system. Esterik (2000) explains that thereis a clear-cut gender asymmetry and identity-based sexual polarities in Euro-American but, in Thailand, the gender system is based upon shape of the body andphysiology that goes to make up the human form. Jackson and Cook (1999) believethat applying the theories and literatures from the West might not be applicable inevaluating Thai’s social phenomena because of its differences in values, beliefs, andculture. This is supported by Spivak’s research (1988) which points out that theWest’s attempts at understanding the Orient from its own point of view places itself asthe subject of the study rather than the Orient. In this case, the literature is not an assetbut rather a deficit. As Menon (2006) explains, “the flow of books had always beenfrom west to east – mainly from the native English-speaking world to the rest of theworld, simply put, from the colonisers to the colonised”. 9
  10. 10. Jackson and Cook (1999) suggest that the difference between Thailand and the othercountries around the region is that there are no traditions of colonial scholarship inThailand that examine gender relations comparable to the rest of Southeast Asia.Muecke (2004) proposed that there is hardly any well-known literature on sexuality inThailand that is inclusively authored by Thai scholars. Most of the literature isconducted by non-Thai scholars, some of whom do not speak Thai at all. On thismatter, Hongladarom (1996) indicated that gender issues in Thailand cannot beunderstood with indigenous meanings because without the Thai community, scholars,and feminists reflecting upon themselves, Thai people would remain locked within itsself-imposed ‘prison of tradition’. This is due to the fact that the Thai language hasreceived little influence from the English language.However, Esterik (2000) has developed the term “semi-colonised” in his famous book“Materializing Thailand”. He argues that Thailand has been colonised economicallyfrom the West. He states that Thailand has created two unique myths in the field ofgender studies. The first myth is that Thailand is culturally homogenous with a singlelanguage and a single religion. The second myth being there is little involvementfrom Western philosophers and scholars in Thailand on gender issues. On the otherhand, American scholars Jackson and Cook (1999), who reside in Thailand and teachat Thai University, see Thailand as a non-colonised country.3.2). Semi-Colonisation: Women’s Participation in the WorkforceAlthough Thailand has always been a male dominated country, traditionally Thai menhave respected women’s participation in the workforce and especially at war. Asevidence has shown in 1548, Queen Suriyothai tells the epic history of a Thai woman. 10
  11. 11. Queen Suriyothai, who valiantly died in a battle against Burmese invaders whentaking her elephant before the Burmese king. She sacrificed herself to save the life ofher husband, King Chakrapat, and his kingdom. This story was also made into a filmin 2001 to remind the Thai people of the Thai heroine. In comparison in the West,there was a strong feeling against such feminine militancy and on many occasionswomen volunteers were sent back to their homes during wars (Anonymous, 1914).However, 300 years later, patriarchal perception evidently influenced Thai society.There is evidence that King Vajiravud (1910-1926) travelled to France and broughtback with him ideas on how to develop Thailand - such as improving transportationand bringing in western lifestyles. As a result, Thai women stopped chewing Betelnuts because it was seen as a non-civilised and unacceptable thing for women to dofrom a Western point of view. This may have been the first development of a semi-colonial status in Thailand.Scholars like Jackson (1999), Esterick (2000), and Iwananga (2005) have now residedin Thailand for some years observing and absorbing Thai gender and sex culture (anethnographical approach). Their studies pointed out that the term ‘beauty’ has had aninfluenced Thai women to wear their hair longer and to dress in stylish westernfashion because many countries in Europe saw Thailand as a non-civilised countrywhere Thai women had short hair, black teeth from Betel nut chewing, and woreclothes that were not attractive according to Western standards. Although Siam wasnot colonised, the country nevertheless selectively borrowed from Western genderunderstanding. 11
  12. 12. Semi-colonial status was further developed in the early 1990s by a feminist movementin Thailand when Thai women who were educated overseas began showing theirinfluence through political parties and education (Esterick, 2000). Theirunderstanding of gender equality was largely due to the Western tertiary educationsystem (Somswasdi, 2003). During that time, the government began to pay moreattention to women’s rights issues. Thus, in 1994, the National Statistics Office inThailand released its first report on women’s participation in the workforce to raiseissues of gender differences in an aim to reduce gender and sex bias because ofmounting pressure arising from the movement. It was stated in the report thatwomens contribution to the national socio-economic development is crucial for Thaisociety (Thailand National Statistics Office, 1996-1998).However, the latest report from Social Statistics Division (2000) describes the failureof women’s participation in the workforce from 1994 to 1998 as ineffective and awaste of money, because people are not aware of gender issues in Thailand. Thefeminist movement in Europe and America in the late twentieth century had created asignificant change in Western society. Second-wave feminists were concerned withgaining full social and economic equality, having already gained some of theimportant legal equality (voting, for example) in most western nations in the latetwentieth century (Smith, 1999).Somswasdi (2003), a Thai woman scholar who graduated from Yale University,stated that the movement was ineffective in Thailand because self-directed assertiveThai women did not see the value of gender equality or women’s equality and did notassociate themselves with the movement. Muechke (2004) explains that Thai women 12
  13. 13. found feminist movements from the West overly academic and obsessed withWestern views and image. Iwanaga (2005) states that the most explicit feministmovement occurred when Thailand reformed its constitution and called it “ThePeople’s Constitution”. It provided a significant enabling framework for genderrights. This constitution aimed to bring equal employment opportunities to men andwomen, as well as enhance women’s equality and equity in the workforce. Thepositive outcome of this constitution is evident in the The Globalist (2006) researchwhich highlights Thailand has one of the highest rates of female labour forceparticipation in East Asia at 65.1 percent. The country ranks are well ahead of anyother Asian nations such as the Philippines (50.2 percent), South Korea (49.9percent), and Japan (48.2 percent).Nevertheless, the number of women participants in the workforce should not be theonly gender equality measurement per se. As Siengthai and Leelakulthanit (1994)pointed out, by considering only the rate of participation by women in the workforce,it would be suggested that Thailand does not discriminate against women. Nor is itsuggested that managerial denial of gender discrimination does not exist, for indeed itdoes. This is supported by Somswasdi’s (2003) research which indicates Thai womenmight be able to enjoy equal opportunities in entering the workforce but still find ithard to gain equal access to a good salary as do men in Thailand, and women’ssexuality continues to be under the control of men. This is confirmed by statisticaldata from Thailand National Statistics Office (1996-1998) which show that womenare largely employed in subordinate roles such as administration, reception, andaccountancy. 13
  14. 14. Furthermore, there are more Thai women working in rural areas due to high seasonaldemand in agriculture who still account for a very small part of the total employmentin the areas of administrative, executive, or managerial positions (Thailand NationalStatistics Office, 1996-1998). Thus, serious gender-based inequalities persist inThailand and the role of women participation in the labour force should beaccountable in gender equity and equality issues.The gender equality issues become much clearer in the late twentieth century, whenmore Western multinational companies began to trade goods and invest in Thailand,and specific research by Tzeng (2006) points out that Western companies have playeda major role in creating gender inequality in the country offices. They create labourpositioning and a pay gap between men and women. Several studies (Cheng & Liao,1993; International Labour Organization, 1998; Jacobs, 1995) note that statistics forfemale managers in most countries have inflated and, in Asia, gender inequalityappears to be a much greater issue than in most other Western countries. This isbecause Asian women are seen as indirect, unable to cope with pressure, and inferiorto European women. These suggestions are confirmed by Thailand National StatisticsOffice (2007) showed that Thai women are still seen as inferior especially in thelabour force in both the public and private sectors.Tzeng’s (2006) and Iwanaga’s research (2005) explain that gender inequality happensin multinational companies’ offices, because multinational companies overlook thepower of Asian women, as they judge Asian women according to local norms, that is,as weak and unprofessional in female behaviour. In addition, Korabik’s research(1993) in “Managerial Women in the PRC" and Giacobbe-Miller, Miller and Zhang 14
  15. 15. (1997) in “Equity, Equality and Need as Determinant of Pay Allocations” show thatinternational organizations are advantaged by employing young, highly-replaceablefemale labour in short-term positions with few opportunities, and has often used theobservance of cultural and social norms for its defence. For instance, businesses mayargue that they are unable to provide promotional prospects for women because, to doso, would require women completing after-hours training which, in turn, wouldimpinge on social expectations of the women’s primary responsibility to family andcommunity (Stockman, Banney, & Xuemen, 1995).A substantial amount of Western literature also refers to women’s primaryresponsibility as non-paid work. They show that gender-based inequalities happenbecause married women or women with partners are being encouraged to enter intonon-economic characteristics such as participating in housework and childrearing (G.-S. Lim & Ng, 1998; Torr, 2005). A similar suggestion is expressed in the Women’sEmpowerment and Reproductive Health Research (1999) throughout the worldwomen continue to bear primary responsibility for childcare and housework. Thisunpaid work remains economically invisible. Furthermore, apart from being ahousewife completing household chores, married women are constrained by themothering role (Hock, Morgan, & Hock, 1985).This is supported by the Inglehart and Norris research (2002) which shows thatthroughout history, women, in virtually all societies, have had their life optionsrestricted to the roles of wife and mother. The impact of the mothering role,pregnancy and care for young children also impede women’s opportunities foremployment (Women’s empowerment and reproductive health, 1999). Appelbaum 15
  16. 16. (1981) and Sorensen (1983) identified patterns of difficulty in women’s labour forceparticipation. Both agreed that married women tend to quit their jobs because theyhave no time outside the house as they are obliged to manage the household and lookafter children. Dex (1987) concurs that women experience different work patternsfrom men and have less time to complete their work and less energy. The latestresearch also suggests that it is common in many societies for the proportion ofwomen participants in the workforce to be lower than men, especially marriedwomen, even though the married women labour force has increased over the last 50years (Engemann & Owyang, 2005).3.3). Post Colonial TheoryBack in 1978, Edward W. Said suggested that the Orient’s way of life had beeninfluenced by Europe where materialism is central to the way of life. Colonisers didnot try to understand the Orient and integrated their education, language, colonialbureaucracies and colonial styles explicitly into the Oriental way of life. A similarperspective is expressed by Slemon (1994), suggesting that the Western theoriescreated the Eastern culture and continue to create complexity into the society in asubjective way. Alan Bishop (1995) describes the Orient culture as a Westernconstruction, like mathematical ideas that are humanly constructed. He furtherexplains that mathematical ideas from the West have become universal and superiorover any indigenous mathematical systems and culture. As well as the Englishlanguage, the production of the West and colonialism has overpowered manyindigenous languages around the world (Smith, 1999). Pennycook (1999) explains inhis book, “English and the Discourses of Colonialism”, that Europeans use theEnglish language as a force to promote and exercise its power and culture in colonised 16
  17. 17. countries, meaning the language helps to spread European knowledge to the colonialcreating an obedient workforce for colonial capitalism.Similarly, Smith (1999) further describes colonialism as not only meant for theimposition of Western authority over indigenous lands, law, government andindigenous modes of production, but for the imposition of Western authority over allaspects of indigenous knowledge, languages, and cultures. Bushra Shahid (2005)expresses that not only colonial countries are forced to learn and use English, butcountries in Asia require the English language as an important tool for social mobility.Many scholars such as Penelope (1990) and Spender (1985) believe that languagessuch as English, not only represent the Western worldview but, more significantly, amale worldview. It also renders women invisible. The famous studies on the Subalternby Spivek (1988) revealed that the white male worldview is seen as a production ofcolonization where the white European male has power in politics, sciences, andeducation. She suggests that the colonised subaltern has no history and cannot speak,and, of course, the Subaltern as female is even more deeply embedded in shadow.Annette Hamilton (2002), professor of Anthropology at Macquarie University,stresses there is a need to develop different types of theories underpinning sexualityand gender studies for the West because post-colonial theory is created through areferential world rooted outside Thailand which does not represent indigenous Thaisociety (Jackson & Cook, 1999; Muecke, 2004). The West aims at creating a greaterawareness of one’s own culture (Bishop, 1995)and the only way that they canimplement it is through their power, domination, and varying degrees of a complexhegemony (Said, 1978, p. 89). Besides, contemporary feminist research concentrates 17
  18. 18. on women, not gender, and that creates an assumption that fails to promote feminists’intellectual, political agenda and employment opportunities, because it falls short inexamining women’s experiences and contrasting them with those of men (Peletz,1995).In addition, the idea of gender equality from the West is to achieve through economicopportunity (capitalism). According to Said (1978, p.87), “the Orient is an integralpart of European material civilisation and culture.” Said’s suggestion is supported bySlemon (1994) who expressed that the Occident sees materialism as important,because the nature of the Occident, or the West, is an economy of cross-culturaldomination.The idea of gender equality as linked only to capitalist achievement and thepossession of money can clearly be seen in today’s world where post-industrialsociety has given, primarily, opportunities to women to compete in the economic race(Inglehart & Norris, 2002). Materialism and money transforms women’s livesdramatically and it is argued, will move them from narrow subordination towards fullequality.This contradicts the Buddhism philosophy where materialism is seen as sin. Thisargument is supported by Inglehart and Norris (2002) saying that “during the latetwentieth century, the shift from survival to self-expression values, and from religiousto secular values, has accelerated throughout advanced industrial societies” (chapter 7,p.3), and that includes Thailand. 18
  19. 19. Although Thailand has never been colonised, it has undoubtedly been affected bywhat Semali and Kincheloe (1999) refers to as Western cultural diseases. “Regardless of what area of the world it is found in, indigenous knowledge has been produced by people facing diseases brought by European cultures, attempts at genocide, cultural assimilation and education as a colonial tool” (p.32). 19
  20. 20. 4: Discussion of my FindingsThe literature suggest that few studies on gender development in Thailand have beenconducted. Very few scholars pay attention to researching gender issues in Thailand.As Yukongdi (2005) points out, there is a scarcity of empirical research examiningwomen in management in Thailand, and as much of the literature was conducted inthe 1980s and 1990s, it is now out of date.Nevertheless, some literature states that European influences have affected all Asiancountries to some extent. This is because European colonialism covered a largeportion of Southeast Asian history, and for a long time dominated economic relationsin the South East Asia region (Constance, 2007). Thus, though Thailand has neverbeen colonised, economic relationships from the West have influenced Thai society.In this chapter, I will apply the framework from Fagenson (1993) which suggests thatin order to understand the experiences, actions, and the status of women, severalanalysis levels are mandatory, such as individual, organizational, and social norms.Therefore, I will explore the nature of Thai women’s employment conditions, therelationship between multinational companies and female workers, the quality ofwomen’s lives between women who work in multinational companies and womenwho work in rural areas, and the expected appropriate behaviours of women and menin Thailand.4.1). Statistical FactsA significant part of the success of Thailands economic development can beattributed to work completed by women according to UNIFEM (2000). The ThaiNational Statistics Office (2007) has revealed that 63.2% of Thai women participated 20
  21. 21. in the workforce in 2006 (see Table 1). Out of 35.4 million people in the labour forcein 2007, based on the January survey, 16.7 million or 47 percent were women, with5.5 million women or around 34 percent of women’s employment in agriculture, and10.7 million women employed outside the agriculture field in manufacturing andservices (see Table 2).Participation rates of 63.2% may be the highest in South-East Asia and it may belegitimate to say that the equality issue in Thailand is well developed. Yet, there is noindication from the latest survey from the National Statistics Office Thailand (2007)that, out of 63% of women, how many of them have senior or management jobs in the 1workforce . This type of statistic is extremely critical because the proportion ofwomen in higher status positions is a key indicator of equity (Appold, Siengthai, &D.Kasarda, 1998).Research conducted by Lim (1990) and Salaff (1990) in South-East Asia has shownthat Thailand’s economic growth is due, to a large extent, on its ability to mobilisewomen’s labour into low skills tasks, with women’s status possibly even decliningwith development. This is supported by the recent report from The World Bank(2007) in “Thailand Economic Monitor: April 2007” which indicates that total exportstopped US$130 billion in 2006, with exports of agriculture and machinerymanufacturers growing robustly. This evidence has shown that two-thirds ofThailand’s GDP comes from agriculture where low-skill employment, manufacturing,wholesale and retail trade are combined. Unfortunately, agricultural work is largely 2done by women according to UNIFEM studies (2000) and have gone unnoticed,1 21
  22. 22. because people who make up this large economic section of the population still livesub-standardly with little money.It is quite common that women in rural Thailand work hard on the farm to raisemoney for the family. Statistics from UNIFEM Asian Regional office in Gender andDevelopment in Thailand (2000) show that there are very high rates of approximately75 percent workforce participation by women who work in rural areas in Thailand dueto high seasonal demands in agriculture. 3On the other hand, the Synovate research has shown that 22.2 percent out of 100% ofwomen’s participation in the workforce of Thai women are employed inadministrative and management occupations. Only 6.38% of women are in seniormanagement positions and, unsurprisingly, 8.8% are in middle-management roles (seeTable 3), (Siripunyawit, 2007). Despite the low percentage of women’s participationin high status employment in Thailand which are due to social and cultural conditions,it would seem to be against such achievements. Katherine Hutchings, a lecturer atQueensland University of Technology, disagrees. She indicates that Thailand hasdeveloped a system through its traditional culture allowing women to receive thesame employment levels, promotion prospects and a share of economic wealth astheir male counterparts (Hutchings, 2000).4.2). Thai Social Norms and the West Social NormsSome studies suggest that Thai women have fared much better in opportunities in theworkforce than other countries in the South East Asia region. In Malaysia and the3 Synovate Co has been established in Thailand for 16 years as a research consulting specialist andemploy 138 staff. It has offices worldwide, in 52 countries 22
  23. 23. Philippines, the women’s main responsibility is to stay at home due to their religiousbeliefs and social norms (Horton, 1996). In addition, in Indonesia, women areprotected by law so they do not have to work at night or in positions that aredangerous to their ethics (Batubara, 1991; Stockman et al., 1995). Such constraints donot affect Thailand, which means that Thai women have the freedom to receivetraining, work at night, and do much the same work as men (Batubara, 1991;Stockman et al., 1995).Although Thailand does not have a law to promote gender equality similar to laws inthe West, substantial literature suggest that its either because there is little awarenessof gender discrimination issues in Thailand in the mindset of Thai people (Hutchings,2000) or it may be the case that such regulations exist in those countries becausegender discrimination exists there to a high degree (Jackson & Cook, 1999).I am not arguing that gender discrimination does not exist at all in Thailand, but it isinteresting to consider why Thailand does not have any regulations of this kind toprevent discrimination. Moreover, it appears that the majority of Thai people do notseem overly concerned about discrimination issues, at least as is evidenced in thefocus of official records and statistics. There is a lack of organised campaigns to raisethe awareness of gender discrimination which may suggest that Thai women perhapsfeel content with the laws and social norms that exist in the society and do notconsider it to be discrimination (Yukongdi, 2005).One possible explanation is that men and women appear to treat each other withconsideration and respect in Thailand which is probably due to the strong relationshipbetween Buddhism and Thai society. Nearly 95% of Thailands population practice 23
  24. 24. 4and believe in Buddhism . There is no doubting the influence of religion onunderstanding the present position of women in Thailand according to Yukongdi(2005). Buddhism teaches that all people should be treated as equals, in other words,to walk the middle line. Kohn (1991) indicates that Thai people tend to follow the 5“middle way or middle path ” which effectively prevents most extremism. This isunlike other religions such as Islam and Christianity where the status of women issuppressed by men. Although a study of the Bible and Koran are beyond the scope ofthis essay, there are some statements made in the Judeo-Christian Bible and the Koranwhich distinguish men and women explicitly and unfavourably, such as the Adam andEve creation story and the proscriptions on women’s dress.This is the difference between Thailand and other countries where feminism seemsfocused on individual pursuits and confrontation. Influence in Thailand fromcolonisation is not as strong as in other colonised countries because of this veryimportant aspect, religion. Influence from the West, such as other religious beliefs andgender values, clearly distinguish men and women, for example, religions of theMiddle East, Judeo-Christianity, and Islam. This appears to have had little populareffect in Thailand.This view is supported by Boon (2003), who is a Managing Director at Global TMCInternational Management Training and Consulting. She points out that Thai societyis not a male dominated preserve society, rather it’s an equal society, unlike thedominant prevalent male in European countries who create obvious inequality.4 In Theravada Buddhism, the Middle Way crystallizes the Buddhas Nirvana-bound path ofmoderation away from the extremes of sensual indulgence and self-mortification and towards thepractice of wisdom, morality and mental cultivation (Kohn, 1991). 24
  25. 25. Historic evidence has shown that Thai women performed what could be regarded asexclusively male tasks, such as women elephant drivers (see Figure 1) and womenmanagers. Alec Gordon and Napat Sirisambhand (2002) point out that Thai womenwere in charge of time management and the recruiting process on a painting in atemple during 1770-1780. This shows that Thai women were performing male tasks atleast since the 1770s. However, some literature on Thai women does not offer anyinsightful evidence. Much of the Western literature and European people appear tobelieve that Thai woman are primarily responsible for non-paid work such as being ahousewife compared to Western practices (G.-S. Lim & Ng, 1998; Torr, 2005). Theybased their analysis on their generic and universal understanding of genderdevelopment based on Western culture.Gender discrimination appears to have existed in the West for many centuries. Theword “feminist” or “feminism” was used in France in 1880s, Great Britain in the1890s, and the United States in 1910. The feminist movement arose in the 19th centuryto remedy the worst excesses of this discrimination. The first feminist movement, theSuffragettes, (the first wave), happened during early 19th century through to the early20th century. During the 1970s and 1980s, second wave feminism dealt with theinequality of laws, as well as cultural inequalities. The third wave of feminism(1990s-current) is seen as both a continuation and a response to the perceived failuresof the second-wave (Charlotte, 2000).In addition, evidence from Western literature emphasises equal employmentopportunities, gender equity and equality and has argued that European women are 25
  26. 26. under the suppression of men. However, I do not think that this assumption can beextended to Thailand due to the differences in religious values and lifestyle.For this reason, the Western concept and meaning of discrimination from the Westcan be argued as irrelevant in Thailand (Yukongdi, 2005). The word “discrimination”itself does not have an equivalent to the Thai language and currently there is no legaldefinition of discrimination. Substantial literature (Jackson & Cook, 1999;Thanprasertsuka et al., 2005) also agrees that the gender concept in Thailand is hardto define.This may partly explain why there is little involvement in the feminist movement andgender development in Thailand, because in the mindset of many Thai people there isno discrimination in society and organisational practices. Perhaps that is the reasonwhy there are few studies on Thai gender development, especially from domesticscholars.4.3). Multinational CompaniesI have revealed that some of the research has indicated that within Thai firms, 30% ofThai women are employed in a senior management role without having any anti-discrimination regulations (Appold et al., 1998). On the other hand, in Europe and theU.S., there are several programmes designed to help women compete with men inorganisations, such as positive assertiveness and management trainee programmes toencourage women to stand up for themselves. One of the main factors could be thatEuropean women are more likely to be stereotyped in organisations, thus they makethemselves “invisible” by allowing men to see them as a non-potential leader (Boon,2003; Goffee & Jones, 2001). 26
  27. 27. From this, one can deduce that gender discrimination in the workforce in Europe isclearly defined and in need of attention. The term “Glass Ceiling” is commonly usedin Western literature and government reports when women experience a barrier frompromotion and recognition (International Labour Office, 2004). Anti-discriminationprogrammes and support groups for women is, therefore, essential because it createsan awareness of discrimination in Western society. It creates and provides positivepolicies and benefits to women such as paid maternity leave, equal employmentopportunities, childcare and so forth.When multinational companies invest in South East Asia, literature suggests that theyusually bring with them their own set of values and impose their equity policies topromote the recruitment and promotion of women in the South East Asia Region(Boon, 2003). However, the findings from Coyle and Kwong (2000) contradicts someof the literature’s suggestions. The findings state that multinational organisationsbased in Thailand do not provide training for women or adopt the equal employmentopportunity practice. Many of them do not have formal policies relating to equalemployment opportunities and anti-discrimination programmes. One might ask whythat is?The answer, based on Thai culture, history, and literature, is that Thai society andgender discrimination does not co-exist. As I have discussed before in the previouschapters, the word discrimination is relatively new or does not exist in Thai society.Gender and sex have the same definition in the Thai language, and social class seemsto be far more important than gender differences (Hutchings, 2000). All these factorsaffect multinational organisational structures and operations that are based in 27
  28. 28. Thailand. They need to apply different methods to fit in with Thai society. Forexample, research from Manusphaibool (1993) indicates that multinationalorganisations in Thailand do not employ men just because they are men; rather theybase their selection on seniority, experience, education, knowledge, hard work andreliability. According to this research, if women show less interest in gaining apromotion they will be treated differently. Researchers have argued that this is,therefore, not discrimination, rather it is a rational judgement based on the qualityand usefulness of that person to the organisation (Susan & Leonard, 2001).What happens when women have children in the workforce? The laws do not maketheir life any easier like the West laws do for their women. Multinationalorganisations in Thailand expect women to have support at home during the time ofraising children. This is because it is common for married women with children toseek assistance from parents and relatives in Thailand, thus having children is not thekey determinant of a woman’s career prospects (Siengthai & Leelakulthanit, 1994).Social networks are therefore vital in Thai society. If they would receive support fromfamily and relatives, Thai women are more likely to be successful in an organisationin Thailand. If not, they will need to take full-time leave, leaving them with littlepromotion opportunity, thus showing she cannot fully commit herself to the company(Boon, 2003).The situation is different in New Zealand. New Zealand society does not expect newparents to receive as much help from family networks as working people in Thailand.Therefore, there are needs for substantial benefits such as longer maternity leaveperiod for new mothers to be able to take care of their own children by themselves. 28
  29. 29. From my point of view, those regulations are there to reduce the sense of inequalityand are there to help women enter the workforce. For that reason, genderdiscrimination in the West can be categorised by looking at the legal system and itsregulations. Evidently, influence from Western organisations does not have asignificant impact on the social norms and overall organisational structure inThailand.4.4). Socio-Economic StatusIn the previous chapter, I discussed the fact that gender discrimination ideas andconcepts are hard to define in Thai society and how international companies complywith Thai culture. So what is it that stops Thai women from achieving the sameeconomic success as men if it is not the gender issue?Literature during the 1970s to the 1990s describes Thai women as supportive andsubservient to men (Sukumolnant, 1989) and became the stereotype of Thai women.However, when there was a rapid expansion due to an economic boom in the early1990s, there was a high demand in the job market. Thai women have experiencedbetter opportunities in employment since then. Research by Appold, Siengthai andKasarda (1998) showed that women accounted for 30 percent in senior managementroles within Thai firms which had two or three times as many women in uppermanagement than in Japan and the U.S. This research indicates that either Thaiwomen are not oppressed in employment as are Japanese or American women, or thatthey are better educated than many Thai men and therefore recruited into managerialpositions. 29
  30. 30. Many scholars argue that gender does not determine opportunities of individuals inThai society - what does determine opportunities in Thailand is class (Boon, 2003;Dunn & Sheehan, 1993; Hutchings, 2000). Women who have a higher socio-economic status and are close to family members are believed to experience a muchbetter opportunity in pursuing their careers and achieving high status occupations.Furthermore, the close relationship within a Thai family household is one of thefactors that help Thai women compete in the workforce. However, this only applies towomen who have middle to high socio-economic status. For example, a family thathas some money put aside are able to give their children a good education. Thesewomen usually leave their children with their grandparents to look after. This is quitecommon for women who are from a middle socio-economic class.In addition, women who come from a high socio-economic or a middle socio-economic status tend to receive more support than a woman from a low socio-economic class and usually employ babysitters to help out with their children and ahousecleaner (Hutchings, 2000). This, in return, allows them to compete in theworkforce the same as their male counterparts (Sheehan, 1995). This is largely due toexpectations from their husbands and families, in that it is expected that women willgo back to work and remain in the workforce after having children (Boon, 2003) andthe affordable babysitting cost in Thailand. A recent survey from Synovate Companyshows that today, only 17% of Thai women are housewives while more than half ofthem are employed in full-time jobs. Only 4% hold part-time positions (Siripunyawit,2007). 30
  31. 31. In Thailand, there are at least a million illegal immigrants from its poorer neighboursLaos, Myanmar, and Vietnam. These people do not receive a good education and haveno professional skills. They are mostly employed in the service sector, caregivers,babysitters, and in manufacturing with little salary. The report from the Thai labourcampaign in 2001 showed that immigrant workers get paid around 60-80 baths(NZ$3) per day which is 50% less than the minimum wage (Yimprasert & Hummel,2001). This is an example of the cheapness of immigrant labour, and how Thai societyexploits people for the benefit of Thai citizens.Since an average income in New Zealand is relatively high, the cost for a babysitterand housecleaner is not cheap. Therefore, it is not possible for New Zealanders to findcheap housecleaners or babysitters because the minimum wage makes it quiteexpensive for many people to pay for such help. That being the case, it forces manyNew Zealand women to look after their house and children on their own. It constrainsNew Zealand women from having a life outside the house.My experience with my own child in New Zealand forces me to extend my studies fora longer period of time and the need for my partner to work part-time. This is mainlydue to the high cost of a babysitter. I have tried to search for a housecleaner andbabysitter here in New Zealand. Not surprisingly, I have not been able to findacademic articles on this topic. It may be possible that there are illegal immigrantsdoing this type of work, as is the case in the United States and Thailand, for lowsalaries. However, since New Zealand is an island, it is more difficult for illegalimmigrants from poor countries such as Burma, Laos, Philippines, and Cambodian towork in New Zealand. On the other hand, whether there are illegal migrants in New 31
  32. 32. Zealand from the Pacific Islands working as babysitters and housekeepers is beyondthis paper to examine.Socio-economic status is perhaps a more important factor than gender in Thailand. Itdetermines opportunities in education and work prospects for both Thai men andwomen. This is because people in a low socio-economic status in Thailand still facedifficulties in employment and promotion because of their work at home and theresponsibility of looking after their children. Unfortunately, the gap between the richand the poor in Thailand is relatively large (see Table 4) due to the starting salary(Siengthai & Leelakulthanit, 1994). For clerical staff it is 10 times less than amanager’s salary compared to other countries such as South Korea, Australia andNew Zealand where managers are paid three times more the earnings of their clericalstaff (Anonymous, 2007). The majority of Thai women are in a socio-economic statuswhere household chores can clearly be seen as women’s main responsibility(Yukongdi, 2005) due to their economic status, not their gender.Nevertheless, although I propose that socio-economic class is more important thangender, there is a relationship between the two factors which needs to be examined infuture research. This is because I cannot deny the fact that both gender and class arefactors in discrimination.4.5). EducationIn the previous chapter, I explored the significance of social class which plays a rolein employment opportunities. This, in turn, gives access to education which is notavailable for the majority of Thai people. A study from Cruz-Siy (1989) showed that 32
  33. 33. women who receive an education from overseas, especially from the U.S. andEngland are often employed in senior management positions in Thailand. However,many Thai women do not have such access. This is purely based on socio-economicstatus not gender because, after 1997 when the CEDAW report came out, Thailandallowed women and men to have equal opportunities in every institution including themilitary and police that used to be exclusive to men. This also enhanced women’sopportunities to study the subjects that used to be only within the male domain. Therecent report shows that Thai women are interested in studying computing andmanagement (see Table 5) more than their male counterparts. Subjects that used to bemale orientated no longer reflect huge differences.The public tertiary education system in Thailand is relatively cheap with a wide rangeof scholarships and allowances, as about 25% of national budget goes towards theeducation system (Ziderman, 2003); compared to a relatively high cost of tertiaryeducation in New Zealand where student debt is over NS$7 billion dollars(Fitzsimons, 2004). This indicates that the Thailand public universities and thegovernment aid both Thai men and women to experience equal opportunities to gainthe education that they want (Asian Development Bank, 1998).Thai women who are lower down on the economic scale can still find themselvesstudying in higher education at the University and in vocational education. Statisticsalso show there is a higher rate of female graduates than male graduates except inDoctoral degrees (see Table 6). Furthermore, in CEDAW’s (2007) report it indicatesthat there are more women receiving scholarships than men, which goes to show theequality of access in Thai education. 33
  34. 34. After completing their studies in Thailand people will have very little debt andinterest to pay off, because the payback system is spread over 15 years aftergraduation with 1 percent interest (Ziderman, 2003), which means people can beginsaving straight away. Although the New Zealand student loan system allows interest-free for students while they study, they have to start paying this amount off when theybegin earning over a certain amount in their place of employment. However, therelatively high tertiary educational fees force students to work more years to pay offtheir debt. One of the researcher’s friends has a debt of NZ$40,000 dollars and that itwill take him at least 5-8 years to clear. The Green Party Education’s spokesperson,Metiria Turei (2007), indicated that “We cannot have a sustainable economy when young people enter into the workforce with a collective debt of $9 billion. The long term impacts are beginning to be felt, with many graduates unable to purchase a house till much later in their working careers. Many are even avoiding having families because they start their adult lives with such an enormous debt burden.”As a Thai person, I think that the education system in Thailand has not yet beeninfluenced by capitalist ideas from the West, at least for now, and it is open toeveryone. Furthermore, close family networks in Thailand help young women toenjoy the opportunity to concentrate on their study and work, for example, the parentsusually pay for their children tuition fees and according to the loan system, it does notmatter if your parents’ income is high, Thai people can still apply for the loan(Ziderman, 2003), whereas many women in the West do not have the same socialsupport networks (Hutchings, 2000). 34
  35. 35. Nevertheless, as mentioned above, women who gain a higher education from overseastend to enjoy a better occupation overall. This may be because multinationalcompanies and Thai firms highly value Western education and the English languageand it becomes an important aspect for an executive position. Therefore, many of theprivate universities in Thailand offer international tertiary curriculum using English asthe main teaching language. This allows women who are from a middle socio-economic status to be able to achieve an education which is equivalent to overseas.International universities are clearly the result of multinational companies that requirean employee to be able to communicate in English.4.6). Western Literature on DiscriminationI have used a Thai theoretical lens to analyse the gender issues in Thailand from thebeginning of this report and, in order to understand gender difficulties in Thailand, Iwill use a Western theoretical approach in this chapter to analyse gender issues inThailand. By using the Western approach and finding the number of regulations thatpromote women, women’s employment rates, and the salary gap approaching on Thaigender issues, this would indicate that there is a high rate of gender discrimination inThailand.New Zealand is considered a Western country as it was colonised by the British andmany European immigrants arrived in the country centuries ago. If we take a look atNew Zealand laws and regulations, we will notice that gender equality issues are verysensitive. For example, there are several laws that strive to promote gender equalitysuch as Equal Employment Opportunities (EEO), the Civil Union Bill, and anti-discrimination laws. 35
  36. 36. Statistics are also important, because statistics are the most reliable hard data that are 6tangible and legitimate to make a claim. According to Bascand (2007) , statistics arecollected and studied because they are an indicator of people’s well-being andwhether or not there should be a change in policy to make a better society.Statistics New Zealand (2005) has a specific report on women called “Focusing onWomen” which looks at the demographic, social and economic characteristics ofwomen in New Zealand. The report provides an overview of the changing status ofNew Zealand women. This report is comprehensive, ranging from how much timegoes into unpaid work, the type of unpaid work that people do and how this varies fordifferent groups.In contrast, the Thailand statistics department only issued a particular gender statisticreport during the period of 1996-1998 which can be retrieved from their official 7website (Social Statistics Division, 2001) . The lack of information on importantstatistics such as how many women work at home, what type of work they do, andwhat type of unpaid jobs they are doing are not included in the KeyStatistics of Thailand in 2007. The report is created by the Thailand National StatisticsOffice (2007) and aims to collect important statistical data which are related toeconomics, society and environment. One section is dedicated to gender statistics.However, there are only three statistical tables (see Figure 2). They are a percentageof population by labour force status, population of migrants by sex, and population ofpeople 15 years and over who desire to develop by education. Some of the statisticsthat should have been under the Gender Statistics section are randomly allocated in6 Statistics New Zealand (2005). Focusing on Women 2005. Wellington. 36
  37. 37. the report. If I simply compare Thai statistics to New Zealand statistics, one can arguethat Thailand does not place much emphasis on women; therefore, genderdiscrimination is obvious. Seen from the Western point of view, I would agree.Said (1978) argues that materialism is integrated into Western society where everyoneis trying to dominate through economic wealth. Therefore, when women earn lessthan men, discrimination issues in the workforce can be targeted. It should be notedthat women tend to earn less than men around the globe, on average about three-fourths of wages received by males for the same work in both developed anddeveloping countries (Boon, 2003). This also applies to Thailand where theproportion of women earning high wages is less than men, about three-fourths of thepay, while the proportion of women earning low salary is higher than that of men (seeTable 7) (The Government of Thailand, 2006). In this case, Thailand can be seen as agender discriminated country because women earn less than men, but where in theworld do women earn more than men?There is no doubt that there is high concern for gender inequality issues in Thailand ifwe base it on the Western theoretical approach. However, it is not applicable to basethe analysis on whether there is gender discrimination or not on numbers, especiallythe employment rate and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) rate. Employment rate couldbe one of the indicators of gender discrimination in the West because of itsmaterialism and capitalism culture. Although capitalism stabilises the economy inmany developed countries, there are various side-effects such as instability, incomedisparity, economic inequality and environmental impacts, with the most critical one,economic inequality in poor countries (Tanomsup, 2006). The 1996 economic crisis 37
  38. 38. in South-East Asia, especially in Thailand, is a prime example of how capitalismcreates instability and chaos in society (Hewison, 1999). Wealth became a priority.Thai people became selfish and their main purpose in life contradicted Buddhismphilosophy (Bangprapa, 2005).4.7). Western Standard of Living (GDP) vs. Eastern Standard of Living (GNH)While capitalism takes over Thai people’s lives, Gross Domestic Product (GDP)measurement becomes the indicator of how well the country is doing so the previousThai Government took the GDP onboard to measure the standard of living in thecountry (Kittiampon, 2007). GDP was widely used in Europe in the early 1950s butwas not recognised internationally until 1993 when it was first introduced in theSystem of National Accounts to the International Monetary Fund, European Union,Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, United Nations andWorld Bank (United Nations Statistics Division, 1993) to set an international standardon GDP.These organisations are mainly organized by the developed countries mainly from theWest. GDP per capita is often used as an indicator of standard of living in aneconomy when it was first introduced. GDP is being used in almost every country inthe world allowing for simple comparisons between the standard of living giving theworld confidence that comparisons are being measured in each country (Hicks, 1997).However, the major disadvantage of using GDP as an indicator of the standard ofliving is that it is not a measure of the standard of living and does not reflect thehappiness of the people, the equality amongst its people, and the quality in society dueto its assumption that the standard of living tends to increase when GDP per capita 38
  39. 39. increases (Bergh, 2007). Nothing about the definition of GDP suggests that it isnecessarily a measure of the standard of living. For instance, in an extreme example, acountry which exported 100 per cent of its production and imported nothing wouldstill have a high GDP, but a very poor standard of living (Summers & Heston, 1995).Feminist sociologists such as Marilyn Waring criticise GDP because there is noimputation made in the accounts for the economic value of unpaid housework or forunpaid voluntary labour (Marilyn, 1988). This obscures the reality that marketproduction depends, to a large extent, on non-market labour being performed.In contrast, the ‘Gross National Happiness’ (GNH) was first introduced in Bhutan byHis Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck. It is largely influenced by Buddhistphilosophy that the ultimate purpose of life is inner happiness (The Centre of BhutanStudies, 2004).Thailand took the GNH idea from Bhutan and included it in The 10th NationalEconomic and Social Development Plan for the years 2007-2011 (see Figure 3) ofThailand. The plan aimed to encounter capitalism and GDP measurement, createsocial harmony or “a green and happy society” (Thailand Investment Review, 2007)and to define quality of life in more holistic terms than Gross National Product(Kittiampon, 2007). Five strategies were developed. The first strategy looked at socialconditions and human development through improved education and health care,morals and ethics, as well as the safety of the individual and of property. The secondstrategy was to develop a strong community. The third strategy dealt with the nationaleconomy. The fourth strategy focused on environmental issues, and the last strategyaimed to develop good governance (Thailand Investment Review, 2007). 39
  40. 40. Evidently, national economic development is not the main priority of this nationalplan. Happiness of the people of Thailand is not based on how much money theyhave. Richard Easterlin, economics professor at the University of Southern Californiaalso agreed that people have been misled to believe that if they are consuming moreapples and buying more cars they will be happier than someone who does notconsume as many apples or have as many cars as they have (Mustafa, 2005). This isalso a Buddhist psyche which teaches people that happiness is contentment. Peopleshould be happy with what they have. As a little Bhutanese girl explained, “If youknow you are happy with your own limitations, that is basic happiness” (Sherr, 2005).The first two strategies deal directly with happiness in a family unit, the happinesswithin society, the quality of lives, good social networks, good education, the sense ofhappiness in society, harmony in society, satisfaction with personal relationships,employment, and meaning and purpose in life. These factors have a weak relationshipto capitalism and materialistic values (Thailand Investment Review, 2007). The GNHpolicy aims to eliminate ego, corruption, depression, and competition that createtension within society, by promoting what is called the “sufficient economy” (seeFigure 4) to solve inequalities and unhappiness and ways to combat new forms ofinequality (Tanomsup, 2006).4.8). LimitationThis research only uses secondary resources to conduct the analysis, thus there is aneed for further research to conduct an intensive interview to prove the researchfindings. In addition, the literature on Thai gender is limited and mainly written byforeign scholars who do not understand the sensitive and unique culture in Thailand.As a result, several theories and findings from Western literature cannot be applied in 40
  41. 41. Thai settings. The statistics data from the recent Thailand National Statistics report(2007) are not comprehensive enough nor up-to-date to generate reliable findings andresults. Significantly, there is a limited time to conduct this study, which may haveinfluenced the result. Furthermore, I am Thai, it is my understanding that genderdiscrimination does not exist in Thailand in the same way as in the West. Based onmy experience as a scholar studying in New Zealand, I am not able to express themeaning of gender and gender discrimination in the Thai language. I found that ideasabout gender are easier to explain in English. 41
  42. 42. 5: Future ResearchI cannot deny the fact that Western literature is the first step of understanding Thaigender studies because without this it might not be possible to understand genderissues in Thailand. However, it is important to take a look at Thai culture and historyas part of the analysis. There is a need for the local researchers to conduct theirresearch in Thailand due to the fact that Thai people are the people who bestunderstand their traditional culture and language. In addition, I believe that researchon the relationship between socio-economic status and gender should take place. Theeffect of colonisation is still a new concept as some of the books refer to Thailand ashaving a semi-colonial status. Therefore, future research would benefit fromobserving Thailand’s history and the relationship between the West and Thailand.However, this, I feel, should be completed by Thai scholars mainly because most ofthe historical literature is written in traditional Thai language which can be hard tounderstand and translate.Finally, this research finding can be beneficial to both Thai and Western scholars indeveloping a further study on a non-colonised country and its culture and lifestyle thatplay a major role in gender development. My future research will be on the “GrossNational Happiness” or GNH. How GNH can raise the efficiency within anorganisation. This principle will argue that, for all workers, happiness and enjoymentshould come first. 42
  43. 43. 6: ConclusionThis study is therefore interpreted from a Western stance, which may be consideredinappropriate when applied in the Thai society. From the perspective of the GNH areThai men and women happier than Western men and women? Many Thai men andwomen may own less commodities than Western people, but Thai social lifestyle maybring them far more peace and contentment.The effect of colonisation has influenced South-East Asia in many ways. Researchhas shown that the culture and social norms from the West have shaped the Asianpeople’s lifestyle and way of thinking. Traditional values are being distorted and havemore or less disappeared. Their history is being written by scholars from the West andinterpreted by Western understanding. Gender development is one of the studies thatis largely influenced by Western scholars.Concepts such as gender and discrimination might be understood by the people whounderstand the Western culture and language to some extent. However, Thailand itselfhas never been colonised and has found difficulty in understanding Western literatureand concepts on gender and discrimination. Some of the Western scholars conductedtheir gender studies in Thailand, a country that has never been colonised.Nevertheless, their understanding is limited, as they do not fully understand Thaiculture and its unique Thai language, especially when the literature is in English. Themeanings and interpretations can be confusing for Thai people as some of the wordssuch as gender and discrimination cannot be translated with a proper understandinginto Thai language. Therefore, Western literature might not be applicable inunderstanding Thai culture and gender. Although the West might influence Thailandeconomically, research findings show that multinational companies highly respect 43
  44. 44. Thai culture. They do not impose their culture in Thailand, rather they are acceptingand applying Thai culture in their organisational practices.Buddhism is part of Thai people’s everyday lives. A practice which is stronglyembodied within Thai culture, has made Thailand one of the most unique countries inthe world that has its own distinct culture and customs. The middle path culture, aphenomenon in Thailand, has shown that Thai people do not like conflict, which is thereason why we have never been colonised, never had a major conflict between menand women, and has also allowed gay men and women to express themselves freely inthe country. Nevertheless, I am not saying that there is no feminist movement,actually, there is. However, there is only a small proportion of Thai women who raisegender issues because they have received an education from overseas and are awareof the issues. In other words, they are influenced by the West’s culture and educationon gender issues.In conclusion, gender might not be a major problem in Thailand because the majorityof Thai people still do not understand the meaning of gender, and people appear to behappy living their lives. However, socio-economic status is important to Thaiwomen’s lives and social networks are part of the Thai society that aids women andmen to experience opportunities when pursuing their careers and dreams. Genderdiscrimination is less influenced by individuals than by the system and social norms,which undoubtedly discriminate against women implicitly. 44
  45. 45. Appendix 1Table 1: Female Employment Rate Table Labour Force Seaso Round nally People Particip Unemplo / Inacti not in ation ymentYear Empl Unemp Quart Total ve Labour Rate Rate er oyed loyed Force (%) (%) Labou r Force Quart 14,583 9,4 3 er 1 15,297.2 .9 457.5 255.9 41.6 61.8 .0 Quart 14,991 9,2 2 er 2 15,699.0 .7 402.9 304.4 12.0 63.0 .62004 Quart 16,012 8,6 1 er 3 16,251.1 .6 224.7 13.8 99.1 65.1 .4 Quart 15,972 8,6 1 er 4 16,288.9 .9 241.1 74.9 84.2 65.2 .5 Quart 15,029 9,3 2 er 1 15,603.1 .6 373.1 200.5 94.2 62.4 .4 Quart 15,313 9,1 2 er 2 15,878.9 .4 311.4 254.1 42.6 63.5 .02005 Quart 16,795 8,6 1 er 3 17,030.3 .2 205.5 29.7 52.5 66.3 .2 Quart 16,515 9,0 1 er 4 16,780.8 .0 226.1 39.7 28.2 65.0 .4 Quart 15,647 9,7 1 er 1 16,126.3 .6 303.2 175.5 48.5 62.3 .9 Quart 16,068 9,4 1 er 2 16,536.9 .8 276.0 192.1 12.0 63.7 .72006 Quart 16,706 9,0 1 er 3 16,943.1 .3 190.2 46.7 80.7 65.1 .1 Quart 16,653 9,1 1 er 4 16,907.9 .7 187.8 66.4 89.7 64.8 .1 Quart 15,909 9,8 1 er 1 16,291.8 .5 215.3 167.0 81.6 62.3 .32007 45 1 Quart 16,137 9,6 .5 er 2 16,582.9 .1 244.1 201.6 68.4 63.2
  46. 46. Source: Report of the Labour Force Survey, National Statistical Office, Ministry of Information and Communication TechnologyTable 2: Number and Percentage of Employed Persons Aged 15 Years and Overby Industry and Sex (in millions) 46
  47. 47. Table 3: Number of Employed Persons Over 15 Years of Age in a 1-Year Periodby Sex (in millions)Table 4: Average Monthly Total Income and Current Income by Region: 2006 47
  48. 48. Table 5: Population 15 Years and Over who Desire to Develop by Course andSex: 2006-2007 48
  49. 49. Table 6: Number of Male and Female Students by Educational Level forAcademic Year 2000 Table 7: Number of Employees by Level of Wages/Salary and Sex 49
  50. 50. Appendix 2Figure 1: Thai Woman Mahout (Elephant Driver). Source: Gordon, A., & Sirisambhand, N. (2002). Evidence for Thailands Missing Social History: Thai Women in Old Mutal Paintings 50
  51. 51. Figure 2: Gender Statistics in “The Key Statistics of Thailand 2007”. Source: The Key Statistics of Thailand (2007)Figure 3: The 10th National Economic and Social Development Plan for theyears 2007-2011 Goals of the 10th planQuality of life • Increase average years of education from 8.5 to 10 years • Increase skilled labor as a percent of workforce from 39.8% to 60% • Increase number of researchers from 6.7/10,000 to 10/10,000 • Increase life expectancy to 80 years • Reduce the rate of illness for the top 5 diseases • Reduce crime by 10%Community • Reduce incidence of poverty from 16.3% in 2005 to 4% by 2011development and • Implement participatory community plan for all communitiespoverty reductionEconomic • Ratio of SME/GDP to increase fromrestructuring 39.4% in 2005 to no less than 40%for balance and • Inflation of 3.0-3.5%competitiveness • Total Factory Productivity Growth (TFPG) of 3% • Energy Elasticity of 1:1 • Q5/Q1 not to exceed 10 times • Ratio of public debt/GDP of less than 50% • Ratio of domestic economy/external sector to 75% from 71.3% in 2001-2005 Source: Thailand Investment Review. (2007). 51
  52. 52. Figure 4: The Philosophy of Sufficiency Economy Source: Kittiampon, A. (2007) 52
  53. 53. References 53