Marital Status and Gender Wage Differentials in Thailand in Recent Years
     Thursday September 22, 2016 Dr. Tanyamat SrungBoonmee, instructor at the Faculty of Economics, Khon Kaen University, presented his ongoing research titled “Marital Status and Gender Wage Differentials in Thailand in Recent Years”. The talk centered on the current state of gender inequality in Thailand as manifested in the labor market in the form of wages. His findings so far contribute to the currently lackluster debate on gender inequality in Thailand. He argues that while female-male wage differentials show that wage inequality has been falling steadily and putting Thailand high in the ranking of gender equality, the measures conceal much disadvantage to females. First, the high average wages for females is accounted for by remarkable improvements in human capital among females. In fact, if returns to human capital were similar between males and females, we would have instead observed about 12% higher wages for females than males.
     Secondly, the main point of the presentation was his discussion of gender roles in marriage and the effect on wages of males and females. In many countries it is usually found that married males earn a premium over un-married males with similar observable qualities. The typical hypothesis is either 1) attractiveness in the marriage market is correlated positively with wage increasing attributes, or 2) marriage allows men to focus on work and thus increases their productivity. While reason 1) may work the same way for both genders, reason 2) seems limited to males, and we would expect a smaller wage premium for married females. This is indeed what is found in his study: married males earn about 10% higher wages than their unmarried counterparts, while married females earn no more than 1.3% higher than their unmarried counterparts. This is taken as indicative of the very different role that marriage plays in the lives of males than females.
     He concludes by encouraging interested economists and social scientists to partake in this line of research, using the infrastructure that the country spends so much resource to provide. Remaining questions and topics for discussion are abundant and the topic is wide open for new insights. Are there characteristics of males and females that are different enough to cause a wage differential, even within superficially similar groups? What implications do different marriage premiums between males and females have for policy or our own behavior? Do we place unrealistic expectations on females, given how fast the world and the economy are changing? Are we psychologically ready for complete male-female equality in such a private area as the household? Dr. Tanyamat is open to hearing ideas and discuss research topics. Contact drtanyamat@gmail.com.