Thailand has made impressive economic and social progress over several decades. However, the COVID-19 crisis has interrupted this progress. Thanks to its sound macroeconomic policy framework, Thailand was well placed to respond rapidly to the sharp economic downturn. Nevertheless, achieving high-income country status will require, in addition to a strong recovery programme, a set of policy reforms focused on productivity growth and human capital accumulation.
Thailand has made remarkable progress in expanding access to education, and the share of highly educated workers has increased significantly. Nevertheless, because of skills mismatches, substantial labour shortages have prevailed in a range of occupations and industries, which makes it important to improve vocational education and adult training programmes. As the demand for services has become important globally, Thailand has an opportunity to boost its exports of services, diversify its economic activity, and therefore become more resilient in the face of unexpected shocks.
This would involve a focus on digital services and business-to-business services, which represent a large share of the value of manufacturing products. Focus on human capital, skills, digital technology, and high-value services would help Thailand resume strong economic growth and social progress after the COVID-19 crisis.