Helena Lyng Blak
5 weeks ago

Tourism, Employment, and Foreign Investment: How Thailand May Financially Benefit From Its Marriage Equality Bill

Discover how Thailand's landmark move towards marriage equality could bolster its economy.
Photo by marcbruxelle
Photo by marcbruxelle

On Tuesday, June 18, 2024, Thailand took a giant leap towards becoming the first nation in Southeast Asia to legalize same-sex marriage. 

An overwhelming majority of the country’s senators (130 in favor, 18 abstentions, and four against) passed a bill granting LGBTQ+ couples equal legal rights as heterosexual couples. As a formality, Thailand’s monarch needs to endorse the landmark bill. 

The vote is a profound step in the right direction for LGBTQ+ persons, activists, and allies in Asia.

"Today is the day that Thai people will smile. It is a victory for the people," said Tunyawaj Kamolwongwat, a Member of Parliament with the progressive Move Forward Party, according to PhilStar

The passing of the bill may not only be a significant victory for the civil rights of LGBTQ+ people but also for Thailand’s economy as a whole.

Positive Economic Development in Emerging Economies

According to a study, conducted at the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, which examined 39 economies including Thailand, a “greater inclusion of LGBT people in emerging economies is positively associated with a country’s economic development.”

The study found that discrimination towards LGBTQ+ people results in economic harms such as reduced productive employment, increased unemployment, and lower levels of education.

Additionally, the study found that supportive policies in the workplace reduce discrimination. This leads to better psychological health for LGBTQ+ employees, which in turn enhances their productivity and reduces costs associated with exclusion. 

“Sound Economics”

Another study, conducted by the World Bank Group, which focused on the economies of Western Balkan countries found that North Macedonia and Serbia could add approximately $360 million to their combined annual GDP by bettering economic inclusion of LGBTQ+ people. 

“For countries to achieve their full development potential, inclusion is essential. Access to basic services and markets and the opportunity to live a life with dignity, is a foundational building block of successful and sustainable development,” said Xiaoqing Yu, World Bank Country Director for the Western Balkans. “This research shows that LGBTI inclusion is not only the right thing to do but also sound economics.”

Boost from Abroad

Lastly, by legalizing same-sex marriage, Thailand may see an economic boost from international sources. 

One way is through tourism. By introducing inclusive and pro-LGBTQ+ policies, Thailand may attract more LGBTQ+ tourists, increasing spending in the country. According to Nikkei Asia, LGBTQ+ tourists roughly spend an annual $200 billion worldwide and Thailand Tourism Authority official Apichai Chatchalermkit, describes LGBTQ+ tourists as “high-potential” because more frequent travels and higher spending, according to AP News

Furthermore, according to Thailand Business News, the Southeast Asian nation may also be seeing foreign investments as a result of introducing this bill and thereby elevating its international reputation as an “open and progressive society.” 

For now, it will take several months for the bill to go into effect and likely longer before we see the economic benefits. 

However, the LGBTQ+ Thai population is surely celebrating a joyous and happy Pride.

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