Financial Literacy – A Vehicle to Reducing Household Debt

As a mother and laborer at an automobile factory in Bangkok, Chutimon has little free time and lots of responsibility. Outside the workplace, she oversees her family’s finances, but this can be difficult given her time restraints and limited education. Without fundamental financial knowledge, the family frequently overspent, leading to short-term debt problems. In September, however, Chutimon participated in a training under the Citi Literacy Improvements for better Finance in Thailand (LIFT) project, which opened her eyes about how to best manage her family’s money to achieve long-term saving and remain debt free.

“Since attending the training, I have changed my attitude. I always thought that it was okay to spend before saving as long as you have an income, but it is not! I am now focused on making sure I have enough money saved before I spend.”

Financial Literacy – A Vehicle to Reducing Household Debt 1
A group of factory workers collaborate to solve a financial management problem during a recent LIFT workshop.

Chutimon was one of 100 factory workers who participated in the September training, an activity that contributed to LIFT’s broader objective to promote financial literacy nationwide as a means to tackle Thailand’s persistent household debt problems. To put this issue in perspective, Thailand’s current household debt amounts to more than 11.24 trillion baht (393 billion USD), which is approximately 81.3% of the country’s GDP.

To extend its reach and lead to widespread behavioral change among laborers, like that exhibited by Chutimon, LIFT recently launched a financial literacy mobile phone application designed specifically to the life circumstances of factory workers. The application can be downloaded for free on the Apple App Store and Google Play. The first of its kind, the application builds users knowledge through a series of engaging modules about financial planning, saving, spending, and debt management.

“The financial literacy application is useful, easy to play, and filled with cute animation and characters,” said Chutimon. “I keep recommending it to my friends.”

 

Beyond the application, Citi and Kenan have successfully brought financial literacy to the fore of policy reform in Thailand, leading to more people experiencing the benefits of strong financial management knowledge. After beginning the project in 2013, Citi and Kenan conducted a comprehensive research study about financial literacy policy and service delivery to gauge the impact of current programs and to identify gaps in policy and service (the full report is available here). Based on their findings, Kenan and Citi held dozens of stakeholder dialogues and advocated for government adoption of financial literacy training. As a result of these efforts, the LIFT curriculum has been embedded into the Ministry of Labour’s (MOL) standard training, meaning that it is taught alongside safety and health issues. Also, the government now offers a tax deduction to any company that offers the MOL’s training to its employees. Such widespread promotion of financial literacy will enable thousands of individuals to save more and contribute to the reduction of debt that constrains large portions of Thai society.

While the dynamic Kenan-Citi partnership closed the three-year LIFT project in October, the two will soon launch the Financial Skills Building for a Secure Financial Future Program, an innovative venture aiming to foster long-term financial stability for community savings groups and their members. Through this project, Kenan and Citi will build off of LIFT and continue advancing financial literacy in Thailand.

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