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Living with Risk

Precarity and Bangkok's Urban Poor

Tamaki Endo

Publication Year: 2014

The informal economy in Bangkok, Thailand, offers upward mobility but is fraught with risk. For members of the urban lower class, residence and occupation are closely inter-connected. Shifts in priorities in housing, occupation and education as family circumstances change affect the way they deploy their limited financial resources, while home fires and job lay-offs make it necessary for poor communities to accommodate frequent changes of residence and variations in production and consumption. People with limited resources are extremely sensitive to uncertainty. Living with Risk examines how lower class communities in the inner city and the urban fringe of Bangkok view their employment prospects and living conditions, and how they manage risk. The author draws on two case studies, one considering the situation of women who became self-employed after losing factory jobs during Thailand’s economic restructuring in the late 1990s, and the second a community displaced by a devastating fire. The book’s detailed examination of the dynamics of the informal economy makes a substantial contribution to the literature on development economics in urban areas.

Published by: NUS Press Pte Ltd

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. v-vi

List of Tables

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pp. vii-viii

List of Figures

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pp. ix

List of Photographs

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pp. x

List of Abbreviations

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pp. xi

Column Series, Measurements, Titles

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pp. xii


Tamaki Endo

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pp. xiii-xiv

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pp. 1-7

This book examines the risk response process and daily survival strategies employed by members of the urban lower class in Bangkok, Thailand, with a particular focus on issues related to residence and occupation. Members of the urban lower class face precarious housing and work...

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Chapter 1: Rethinking the Urban Lower Class

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pp. 8-37

We now live in history’s first urban century. When the global urban population hit 3.3 billion in 2008, it exceeded 50 per cent of the world’s population and surpassed its rural counterpart for the first time, ac- cording to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). If all goes as...

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Chapter 2: Urban Poverty-Related Policy and Promotional Policies for the Informal Economy in Bangkok

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pp. 38-76

This chapter examines Thai policies toward the urban poor, central among them, the development of slum-related policy. In the midst of this policy development, the government created a new set of policies designed to promote the informal economy. As this chapter analyses...

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Chapter 3: The Case Study Communities: History and Living Conditions

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pp. 77-100

In this chapter, I will explain the outline of field survey and specific research. Together with Chapters 4 and 5, which examine the internal structure of these communities in greater detail in terms of occupation and residence, this section provides background information about the...

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Column Series: People I Have Met in the Field

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pp. 101-104

While conducting community-based research, I have met a number of biological males who identify as women, and biological females who identify as men. Particularly numerous are those in the former category —people who were born as males but are now living as women. I have...

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Chapter 4: The Urban Lower Class and Their Occupations

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pp. 105-128

This chapter focuses on the aspect of occupation in the research site. First, the occupations of the residents will be classified. Based on this, the occupational profiles of the two communities will be elucidated, together with any notable characteristics that emerge. Having identified...

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Column Series: People I Have Met in the Field

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pp. 129-132

I first met Phii I, a member of the inner-city community S, even before my research had officially begun. If memory serves correctly, I was walking around the community with a member of an NGO when I saw her. I was standing and chatting with a family who owned a grocery...

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Chapter 5: The Urban Lower Class and Their Residences

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pp. 133-153

Housing is a basic human need. The first challenge faced by migrants arriving in a city is to secure residence. In this chapter, I focus on the issue of residence in the communities that are the subject of this inves- tigation. In the case of inner-city community S, this chapter deals with...

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Column Series: In the City

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pp. 154-156

While conducting interviews that traced people’s lives in different communities, there came certain moments in which I was suddenly afforded wider glimpses of Bangkok's history. In listening to many different stories regarding the history y of f movement among local residents, f for instance, it...

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Chapter 6: Encountering Risk: Fire and Reconstruction of Residence and Communities

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pp. 157-183

The fire that struck inner-city community S in April of 2004 caused serious damage and resulted in the complete or partial destruction of 713 out of 814 residences. This obliteration of individual homes and community spaces occurred in only an hour-and-a-half. After the fire...

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Column Series: In the City

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pp. 184-190

S, who helped initiate a savings group for residents of the Baan Mankong Housing Project in the aftermath of the fire, worked as its leader for three years. Organising a total of 350 households, he steered this effort through its most difficult days until reconstruction was finally able to...

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Chapter 7: Encountering Risk: Response of the Self-Employed to the Fire and Resulting Class Disparities

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pp. 191-216

The great fire in inner-city community S did not just cause people to lose their homes, but also dealt a severe blow to the work of the self-employed, because it destroyed their means of production. Also, the loss of and changes to their living space—the community itself—greatly...

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Chapter 8: Encountering Risk: Layoffs and the Life Course of Female Workers

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pp. 217-250

This chapter analyses female occupational paths and class disparities, focusing on the experiences of women in former-fringe community U. It is clear from arguments made in previous chapters that a big gender disparity exists in terms of occupation in the risk response process. The...

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Column Series: In the City

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pp. 251-253

How far is the journey travelled by shoes that are sewn by homeworkers in a community? For the original contractors, these homeworkers function something like a regulating valve. With the existing imbalance in power relations more than obvious in this regard, the task of conducting...

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Column Series: People I Have Met in the Field

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pp. 254-256

Phii H always looks glamorous. As noted in Case 8, she runs a beauty salon in the former-fringe community U. She has a different hairstyle every time I see her, often including hair extensions or elaborate braids. When I asked her where she finds her inspiration, she said it comes from...

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Chapter 9: Occupational and Class Mobility of the Urban Lower Class: The Path of “Upward Mobility”

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pp. 257-275

Chapters 7 and 8 analysed the actual occupational experiences and paths of the urban lower class and the changes they have undergone after facing risks such as fires and layoffs. Sometimes, they are swept along by macroeconomic fluctuations, and at other times, they take on individual...

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Column Series: People I Have Met in the Field

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pp. 276-278

I first met Nong B while conducting a questionnaire survey in March 2004. My first impression was that he was an honest and likeable young man with a shy smile. His father was a tuk-tuk k driver, and his mother had b been working as a maid in a condominium b building, although she...

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pp. 279-289

This book has analysed the lives and labour of the urban lower class by focusing on the aspects of their residence and occupation in the context of the rapidly changing city of Bangkok. Its pillars of analysis, risk en- counters and the risk response process underscore the importance of...


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pp. 290-308


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pp. 309-324


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pp. 325-334

Kyoto Series

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E-ISBN-13: 9789971698010
Print-ISBN-13: 9789971697822

Page Count: 360
Illustrations: 15 tables, 20 figures, 30 images
Publication Year: 2014

Edition: New