Thailand

Population: 
67,222,972
Number of Business Networks: 7
Number of Private Sector Initiatives: 10
Number of Government Services: 12
Labor Force Participation Rate: 
71

Introduction

Thailand has long encouraged and supported female participation in its workforce.  More...

Thailand has long encouraged and supported female participation in its workforce. Nearly two-thirds of Thai women (ages 15–64) participate actively in the agricultural and nonagricultural sectors, and the representation of women in management positions (more than one-third) is among the highest in the world. According to a 2013 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) report, representation of male and female entrepreneurs at all stages of business activity is roughly equal: intending to start a business, starting and sustaining the business, and becoming an established owner and creator of jobs. Women make up 37 percent of board positions in Thailand, which is one of the highest rates in the world.

Entrepreneurship in Thailand is a critical component of the economy’s development strategy. According to the OECD, SMEs make up 99.8 percent of all Thai enterprises, account for 76.7 percent of total employment, and represent 37 percent of the GDP. The 2013 GEM report further shows that one-third of Thailand’s adult population is “thinking of starting a new business within the next three years.” In 2013, 46.3 percent of the population was engaged in entrepreneurial activities, and 28 percent owned an established business. The overall legal and regulatory environment in Thailand is considered relatively strong, with Thailand ranking 26th out of 189 economies surveyed by the World Bank’s Doing Business in 2015 report.

Still, significant barriers remain for nearly all aspiring and active Thai entrepreneurs. Many SMEs have trouble accessing government services and support schemes because of specific legal and registration requirements, and because of investment limits that exclude a majority of Thai SMEs from eligibility. SMEs also may not know which government agencies to contact. Illustrative of this problem is that obtaining a loan from the public SME Bank takes longer than at one of Thailand’s many commercial banks.

Women-owned enterprises in Thailand are typically small, and rely on a variety of funding sources to become established, chiefly funds from their own savings and from family and friends. The GEM reports that more than 70 percent of Thai women-owned businesses operate as microenterprises. Many of these grow fast: A 2010 study by MasterCard found that women-owned SMEs in Thailand grew at an annual rate of 2.25 percent compared with 0.31 percent among male-owned SMEs. A high rate of growth does not equate to long-term sustainability of business operations. Whereas 29.6 percent of the male population qualified as ‘established business owner’ in 2013, only 26.5 percent of the female population was designated as such. Women chiefly cite personal reasons or the lack of profitability for discontinuing their enterprises.

An APEC and Asia Foundation study on access to trade and growth of women-owned SMEs in Thailand found that women business owners perceived low levels of government support for small business. According to the study, women owners are 21 percent less likely than their male counterparts to think that government is “very or somewhat accessible.” APEC reported in 2013 that, in practice, women face difficulties in accessing loans due to the lack of collateral and the stipulation by cooperatives that they must have the consent of their husband for obtaining a loan. Application paperwork, including procuring supporting documents, is another major impediment for women applying for business loans.

While women pursue a variety of roles in the Thai economy, they are still expected to adhere to traditional gender roles in the household. A survey of time consumption of Thai people by the National Statistical Office revealed that women had less free time than men and spent more time on household work than men. In addition, women spent more time than men taking care of family members, resulting in less spare time.

Thailand has relatively few formal business networks that bring women together in mentoring relationships for leadership development or to access capital for their start-up, venture, or commercial interests. The Business and Professional Women’s Association (BPW) of Thailand, an offshoot of BPW-International, has 18 provincial chapters and one central hub in Bangkok. BPW-Bangkok is an active organization, hosting leadership development seminars, working with aid donors on innovative enterprise promotion, and coordinating with the government on philanthropic initiatives.

Women entrepreneurs may wish to join the recently-formed Thai SME Trade Association, which was established as a result of the gathering of SME entrepreneurs at the SMEs Advanced Courses for Senior Executives held by the Office of SME Promotion (OSMEP) in 2013.

Networks that support women’s access to capital and assets: 

No information available. Contact us if you know of a network that fits this criteria.

Networks that support women’s access to markets: 

This nonprofit organization was formed in 1981 as a small entrepreneurs club by industrial entrepreneurs trained through the Department of Industrial Promotion. More than 8,000 members have graduated the training program and assemble in ATSME branches in Bangkok,...more

Since January 2004, BNOW has provided a supportive network for local and foreign professionals living and working in Bangkok. While the group is open to anyone, most members are women. It is funded primarily through membership fees: THB 1,200 (US$35) for regular members...more

BPW Thailand is the economy-wide chapter of an international NGO called BPW International. Its mission is to promote gender equality, serve as a platform for exchange and cooperation, enhance women’s professional capabilities and global vision, and encourage their...more

Networks that support strengthened capacity and skills for women in business: 

The objectives of TA-SME are to: (1) encourage and support enterprises in promoting growth; (2) support and assist members through information dissemination and help negotiating deals; (3) conduct research about the commercial market and policies; (4) conduct research on...more

Networks that support women’s leadership, voice and agency: 

This seminar series brings together 50 to 100 women in discussions to support good relationships among members; to exchange knowledge; to develop the capabilities of business women; to maintain the image of the association; and to support a new generation of business...more

Established in 1961 with a donation from Queen Sirikit and King Bhumibol, the NCWT is an influential women’s nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting women leaders and promoting the status of women and their role in Thai society. It is a member of the International...more

This club, with more than 1,700 likes on Facebook, was created to bring unity among working and entrepreneurial women in Bangkok. The club has been active since 2012 and hosts private networking events, run seminars, promotes healthy activities, delivers classes and...more

Networks that support women and innovation and technology: 

No information available. Contact us if you know of a network that fits this criteria.

A number of nonprofit organizations exist in Thailand to push for the advancement of women’s rights and equality, including the Friends of Women Foundation and the National Council of Women of Thailand. The latter sponsors an annual Women’s Day to encourage greater awareness and recognition of the importance of women in Thai society. Many initiatives were started to advocate for basic women’s rights and to address violence against women, but attitudes are changing as women become more important players in business and entrepreneurship.

Two associations approach support to SMEs in a broad-based, gender-blind manner. The Thai Association of Small and Medium Entrepreneurs engages in research and distributing information on entrepreneurship, and partners with other SME organizations to conduct relevant training on ASEAN or ICT-based business skills. The Association for the Promotion of Thai SMEs has affiliations with the government and serves as a clearinghouse of information on upcoming training, seminars, and government-sponsored events.

A few initiatives impart business skills and build the capacity of women entrepreneurs specifically, though it should be noted that these initiatives (like the Goodwill Group Foundation and Association for the Promotion of Status of Women) primarily target disadvantaged, homeless, or incarcerated women, and not women entrepreneurs at large. There are no identified private initiatives (including commercial banks) to support women’s access to capital or markets. 

Initiatives that support women’s access to capital and assets: 

AVPN is a unique funders network headquartered in Singapore that seeks to increase the flow of financial, human and intellectual capital to the social sector across the Asia Pacific region. We promote venture philanthropy in the broader philanthropic and social...more

The Global Women Entrepreneur Leaders (GWEL) Scorecard, sponsored by Dell Inc. and produced by ACG Inc., is a new data driven diagnostic tool that identifies the impediments to high impact female entrepreneurship and introduces actionable steps that can be taken to...more

Initiatives that support women’s access to markets: 

The Global Women Entrepreneur Leaders (GWEL) Scorecard, sponsored by Dell Inc. and produced by ACG Inc., is a new data driven diagnostic tool that identifies the impediments to high impact female entrepreneurship and introduces actionable steps that can be taken to...more

Started by GET and the Hong Kong Development Council (HKTDC) with sponsorship from the national government’s Office of SME Promotion (OSMEP), THAI AIM is a video competition to encourage entrepreneurs to use social media to market their products internationally. SMEs...more

Initiatives that support strengthened capacity and skills for women in business: 

AVPN is a unique funders network headquartered in Singapore that seeks to increase the flow of financial, human and intellectual capital to the social sector across the Asia Pacific region. We promote venture philanthropy in the broader philanthropic and social...more

Connecting Founders is a Bangkok-based organization that supports women-led businesses in Thailand and across Southeast Asia. It runs a training and mentoring program for woman-led startups in Thailand, which connects seasoned businesswomen with young and aspiring...more

GET is an entrepreneurship hub made up of community leaders, entrepreneurs and partner organizations, with the aim to inspire people—men and women—to launch and grow scalable startups and businesses. It runs a Thailand Women’s Entrepreneurship initiative, organizing...more

Initially established in 2000 as an English language school for disadvantaged Thai women, Goodwill Group has since expanded its programs to include personal and career development services. It has annual operating expenses of THB 4 million ($US 128,177) and nearly 90...more

Started in 1989 with support from the Department of Non-Formal Education and patronage from Princess Soamsawali, the WE-TRAIN center offers vocational training in sewing, cooking, hairdressing, crafts, housekeeping, and Thai massage; access to income-generating...more

This nonprofit organization aims to incubate new entrepreneurs to be successful in business. It provides business suggestions, training workshops, and support from government agencies and the private sector. Recent events include a workshop on business incubation in...more

Initiatives that support women’s leadership, voice and agency: 

Connecting Founders is a Bangkok-based organization that supports women-led businesses in Thailand and across Southeast Asia. It runs a training and mentoring program for woman-led startups in Thailand, which connects seasoned businesswomen with young and aspiring...more

FOW works to protect and promote women's rights in politics, society, and economics. It seeks to address issues of domestic violence, prostitution, women’s health, AIDS, and abortion. FOW also advocates on behalf of Thai women in cases of gender-based violence, worker’s...more

The Global Women Entrepreneur Leaders (GWEL) Scorecard, sponsored by Dell Inc. and produced by ACG Inc., is a new data driven diagnostic tool that identifies the impediments to high impact female entrepreneurship and introduces actionable steps that can be taken to...more

Wedu is a leadership development organization offering mentorship and financing options to help women complete higher education or start a business. Since it started in 2012, 96 “Rising Stars” from 25 countries have been accepted into the program, and Wedu has provided...more

Initiatives that support women and innovation and technology: 

No information available. Contact us if you know of a network that fits this criteria.

Government services to SMEs are coordinated and implemented through the Office of SME Promotion (OSMEP), the Department of Industrial Promotion (DIP), and SME operators throughout Thailand. OSMEP published its third SME Promotion Plan for 2011–2015. A fourth plan is in development for 2016-2020.

The current plan focuses on strategic support to key business sectors such as technology and innovation, agriculture and processed agriculture, creative industries, retail and wholesale, and service and tourism. The plan also calls for the establishment of an SME Center in cooperation with OSMEP and the Institute for SME Development, as well as further collaboration with Thailand’s SME Bank to open up funding sources for SME operators.

In the plan there is a special emphasis on upgrading the economy’s “One Tambon One Product” (OTOP) local entrepreneurship stimulus program. The program was developed in the early 2000’s to support the locally made and marketed products of Thailand’s “tambons” (subdistricts). There are 36,000 OTOP in Thailand, with 30 to 3,000 members in each group. OTOP helps local communities develop better products through product rating systems and annual exhibitions. The third SME Promotion Plan intends to “upgrade” OTOP groups to become SME operators, and to support the sale of OTOP products on international markets.

The majority of ongoing government services for SMEs are gender-blind. According to a report submitted at the APEC Second Policy Partnership on Women and the Economy Meeting in 2012, 46 percent of new entrepreneurs participated in and supported by the DIP are women. The economy’s SME Bank is dedicated to servicing the sector, and provides a range of financial and nonfinancial services. The SME Bank will expand under the current SME Promotion Plan to increase access of entrepreneurs to credit and support services. One dedicated women-centric service is the Thai Women Empowerment Fund, a highly publicized multi-million dollar fund introduced by the Yingluck administration in 2012.

SMEs looking for services have access to some good online resources. The Department of Business Development provides information on business registration, foreign business operations, accounting and auditing, and business promotion. The Thai Credit Guarantee Corporation offers a phone-based service center, online help chat, suggestion box, and complaint registration service. The Department of International Trade Promotion has information for Thai exporters and foreign buyers alike, and links to a well-designed e-commerce website called Thaitrade.com.

Services that support women’s access to capital and assets: 

The BAAC’s primary objective is to enhance the social and economic well-being of Thailand’s agricultural population through the provision of financial services, specifically in the form of loans for agricultural production, investments and marketing. It aims to boost the...more

The mission of the SME Bank is to provide financial and other services to advance the government policy of helping and promoting SMEs. Though not specifically geared toward women, a range of products are offered to meet the needs of entrepreneurs, such as credit...more

TCG is a state-owned specialized financial institution under the Ministry of Finance that was established to provide support to SMEs through guarantee service to those SMEs that have growth potential but lack collateral security in order to acquire loans from financial...more

The objective of this THB 7.7 billion (approximately US$236 million) fund, introduced in 2012 by the Yingluck administration, is to raise the potential of women in every domain. It provides low interest or zero interest funds for investment in women’s development and in...more

This fund, backed by the Office of SME Promotion (OSMEP), strives to fund SMEs with high business potential in select business categories, to encourage good corporate governance and transparency among SME entrepreneurs, and to support Thailand’s capital market. To...more

Services that support women’s access to markets: 

The mission of the SME Bank is to provide financial and other services to advance the government policy of helping and promoting SMEs. In addition to a range of loan products for SMEs, the SME Bank provides business matching events, such as a Thai-Japanese 2013 event to...more

Under the OSMEP, these desks support SMEs that would like to seek opportunities in Italy or Japan by providing them consultation and facilitation, business matching, language assistance, and market access services. more

Services that support strengthened capacity and skills for women in business: 

The SME Bank places importance on support, promotion, and development of SME entrepreneurs before or after granting of loans. Pre-loan projects include a mobile unit to provide mentoring advice on preparing a loan application. Five hundred and fifty-six SME entrepreneurs...more

Established in 1993, the DSD is housed within the Ministry of Labor. It has the following powers and duties: (1) to develop labor standards in line with international standards; (2) to develop labor skills and the system and model of skill development; (3) to promote...more

TSEO was established in 2010 under the Thai Health Promotion Foundation Act, as the executive authority to deliver the Social Enterprises Master Plan (2010–14).TSEO’s priority is to stimulate cooperation among social enterprises and develop their networks in Thailand. In...more

Services that support women’s leadership, voice and agency: 

OWAFD was established in 2002 under the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security. It serves as the economy-wide focal point for the promotion of gender equality and the strength of the family institution. OWAFD implements policies, measures and mechanisms to...more

Services that support women and innovation and technology: 

This program was started in December 2013 by the Asia-Pacific Telecentre Network (APTN), the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT), the Research Center of Communication and Knowledge Management (CCDKM), and New Media4D. It offers ICT training to...more