Thailand flag Thailand: Economic and Political Overview

The economic context of Thailand

Economic Indicators

Thailand is the second-largest economy in Southeast Asia after Indonesia, and with an upper-middle income status, serves as an economic anchor for its developing neighbour countries. The country's economy appears resilient and, according to the IMF, growth was estimated at 2.7% in 2023, slightly higher than 2.6% one year earlier, as the contraction in investment and goods exports caused by the slowdown in external demand partially offset the robust private consumption growth following the tourism recovery. The growth projection for 2024 stands at 3.2%, buoyed by enhancements in external demand and sustained robust growth in private consumption, followed by 3.1% in 2022 (IMF).

Concerning public finances, the IMF anticipates that the general government deficit will rise to 1% of GDP in 2024, up from an estimated 0.3% in 2023. This increase is attributed to heightened expenditure, accommodating initiatives like the digital cash handout scheme and other measures endorsed by coalition parties during the election campaign. These expenditures are expected to outstrip steady revenue collection as growth strengthens. In 2025, the IMF projects a modest increase in the fiscal deficit to 1.2%, mainly driven by sustained social and capital spending. The debt-to-GDP ratio increased to 61.4% last year, from 60.5% in 2022, and is expected to follow an upward trend in 2024 (62.9%). Thailand's robust external position continues to be a fundamental strength, offering a substantial buffer against tightened global financial conditions and geopolitical risks. In 2023, headline inflation reached 1.5%, benefiting from ongoing efforts to maintain low energy prices and enhancements in global supply chains. As growth strengthens in 2024, headline inflation is anticipated to experience a slight uptick to 1.6%.

The unemployment rate remained very low in 2023 (1.2%) and is projected to stay around 1% over the forecast horizon (IMF). Thailand's official unemployment rate is among the lowest in the world due to the low birth rate, lack of social insurance and informal sector employing the bulk of the workforce (street vendors, motorbike taxis and self-employed). The country’s average GDP per capita (PPP) was estimated at USD 20,672 in 2023 by the World Bank. Thailand has made the most progress in ASEAN on eradicating poverty in recent years, with the poverty ratio standing at 6.3% of the population (Asian Development Bank, latest data available).

Main Indicators 20222023 (E)2024 (E)2025 (E)2026 (E)
GDP (billions USD) 495.65514.95548.89573.39605.76
GDP (Constant Prices, Annual % Change)
GDP per Capita (USD) 7,0737,3377,8128,1538,608
General Government Balance (in % of GDP) -3.1-1.6-2.1-2.0-1.8
General Government Gross Debt (in % of GDP) 60.562.464.565.565.8
Inflation Rate (%)
Unemployment Rate (% of the Labour Force)
Current Account (billions USD) -15.746.579.0611.4312.93
Current Account (in % of GDP) -

Source: IMF – World Economic Outlook Database, October 2021

Main Sectors of Industry

Thailand has a labour force of 40.2 million people, out of its 71.6 million population. Its economy is heavily based on agriculture, which contributes 8.8% of the GDP and employs 32% of the active population (World Bank, latest data available). The country is the largest producer of natural rubber in the world and one of the leading producers and exporters of rice; it also possesses sugar, corn, jute, cotton and tobacco among its major crops. Fishing constitutes an important activity as Thailand is a major exporter of farmed shrimp. Traditional farming methods are prevalent, but there's a growing emphasis on modernizing agriculture through technology adoption, such as precision farming and irrigation systems.

The manufacturing sector accounts for 35% of the GDP and is well diversified, employing 23% of the active population (World Bank). The country has established itself as a manufacturing hub in Southeast Asia, attracting foreign investment due to its strategic location, skilled workforce, and robust infrastructure. The Thai industrial sector is diverse and dynamic, encompassing manufacturing, electronics, automotive, and petrochemicals among its key sectors. Emerging sectors within the industrial landscape include renewable energy, biotechnology, and aerospace, reflecting Thailand's efforts to move towards high-value-added industries and technological innovation. Thailand's industrial output declined 5.1% in 2023 due to a significant drop in computer and peripherals, electronic parts, and furniture production (official data).

The tertiary sector contributes to 56.2% of the GDP and employs 46% of the active population (World Bank). Key sectors include tourism, finance, healthcare, education, and telecommunications. Thailand's tourism industry is a major driver of the tertiary sector, attracting millions of visitors annually: according to official governmental figures, the country welcomed over 28 million international visitors in 2023 , generating an impressive income of more than THB 1.2 trillion. The finance sector, centred in Bangkok, serves as a regional financial hub, offering a wide range of banking, insurance, and investment services. Healthcare and education are also prominent sectors, with Thailand being a destination for medical tourism and home to reputable universities and international schools. Emerging areas within the tertiary sector include digital services, e-commerce, and fintech.

Breakdown of Economic Activity By Sector Agriculture Industry Services
Employment By Sector (in % of Total Employment) 31.6 22.5 45.9
Value Added (in % of GDP) 8.8 35.0 56.2
Value Added (Annual % Change) 2.5 -0.7 4.6

Source: World Bank, Latest Available Data. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.


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Indicator of Economic Freedom


The Economic freedom index measure ten components of economic freedom, grouped into four broad categories or pillars of economic freedom: Rule of Law (property rights, freedom from corruption); Limited Government (fiscal freedom, government spending); Regulatory Efficiency (business freedom, labour freedom, monetary freedom); and Open Markets (trade freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom). Each of the freedoms within these four broad categories is individually scored on a scale of 0 to 100. A country’s overall economic freedom score is a simple average of its scores on the 10 individual freedoms.}}

World Rank:
Regional Rank:

Economic freedom in the world (interactive map)
Source: Index of Economic Freedom, Heritage Foundation


Business environment ranking


The business rankings model measures the quality or attractiveness of the business environment in the 82 countries covered by The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Country Forecast reports. It examines ten separate criteria or categories, covering the political environment, the macroeconomic environment, market opportunities, policy towards free enterprise and competition, policy towards foreign investment, foreign trade and exchange controls, taxes, financing, the labour market and infrastructure.

World Rank:

Source: The Economist Intelligence Unit - Business Environment Rankings 2020-2024


Country Risk

See the country risk analysis provided by Coface.

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Sources of General Economic Information

Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry
Ministry of Commerce
Statistical Office
National Statistical Office of Thailand
Central Bank
Bank of Thailand (BOT)
Stock Exchange
The Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET)
Economic Portals
Thai Chamber of Commerce

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Latest Update: June 2024