Thailand’s recent social welfare and labour reforms represent a positive progression towards supporting newborns, the elderly, and people who identify as disabled or PWDs (including people who identify as neurodivergent, or ND). Social Development and Human Secretary, Minister Varawut Silpa-archa’s announcement of expanding welfare programs, is a welcome step in the right direction.

Photo caption: Steps trainee (who identifies as neurodivergent) works at the tea bar at a high-end hotel chain in Bangkok

Despite positive changes, many PWDs, especially NDs, are still left without much-needed support because of the narrow definition of the term ‘disability’ in the current welfare system. The system’s reliance on medical definitions overlooks social and economic factors, resulting in unnecessary hardship for millions.

As a leader in the inclusive employment space in Thailand and Southeast Asia, Steps welcomes this acknowledgement of existing gaps and the desire to close them. We also believe that self-identification and self-advocacy are crucial to increasing employment and the efficacy of support programs. The highlight version of our white paper ‘Synthesising the Inclusive Workplace: Thailand‘ also points out the need for tailored solutions that come from open dialogue between stakeholders, always including the experience and voices of PWDs.

Thailand and the International Labour Organization (ILO) jointly launched the Decent Work Country Programme (DWCP) 2023-27 to address challenges including gender inequality, environmental concerns, and the inclusion of PWDs, offering a holistic approach to promote decent work for all.

Steps is working to support the development of a more sustainable, inclusive, and future-proof employment ecosystem, striving to create a more inclusive and equitable future for all. 2024 will see our multi-stakeholder approach achieve important projects with government, caregiver associations, private sector organisations and educators, all of which are designed with the voice of our community embedded into practice, implementation, and measurement in Thailand and beyond.

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Welfare rules need review by Bangkok Post, published on 27 February 2024.

Decent Work Country Programme for Thailand 2023-27 by International Labour Organization, published on 28 February 2024.