Development Analysis Network - February 2003
Off-farm and Non-farm Employment in Southeast Asian Transitional Economies and Thailand
English 294 pp.

Foreword 

Written by leading researchers from seven research institutes, this publication examines the present status and growth of off-farm and non-farm activities in Southeast Asia and the potential for these activities to provide employment in rural areas. Each country study includes an examination of the size and diversity of off-farm and non-farm activities, their market linkages, and includes policy recommendations based largely on country-specific field studies of small and medium off-farm and non-farm activities. The specific concern in the SEATE countries was the inability to reduce underemployment in their agrarian sectors and create jobs for the growing rural labour force.

The findings of these studies suggest that the proportions of workers engaged in traditional agriculture in all four countries are very high. It is revealed, however, that rural populations are increasing and that traditional agriculture may not be able to provide sufficient employment for this ever-growing workforce. The findings also reveal that where there is investment, it tends to be area specific, most notably in urban areas. There are additional problems being faced in rural areas across the region and these tend to include low rural human resource capacities and often, poor infrastructure. It is in the light of these factors that job-creation in off-farm and non-farm activities assume critical importance.

While the most compelling reasons for promoting off-farm and non-farm activities may be rural employment generation and poverty reduction, there are other potential benefits to be gained. These include the potential for off-farm and non-farm employment to diversify skills and technologies into rural areas and to develop human and physical resources in the countryside. This assumes critical importance for countries like Cambodia and Laos. Finally, the advantage of developing off-farm and non-farm capacity is that the cost is reasonably low. Many of the skills already exist as they are based on traditions that often go back hundreds of years and markets for many of the products already exist. Most importantly, it has been found that many of the activities are not a radical departure from traditional rural lifestyles and play a critical role in supplementing farm income.

The findings of this third phase of DAN research were disseminated in a conference held in Hanoi, Vietnam in December 2002 and attended by about 80 participants. Since then the papers have been edited and with this volume, have now been published.

The Development Analysis Network (DAN) is a network of research institutions in Thailand and the Southeast Asian Transitional Economies (SEATEs) of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. The institutions participating in DAN include the Cambodia Development Resource Institute and the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace in Phnom Penh, the National Economic Research Institute and the National Statistical Centre in Vientiane, the Central Institute for Economic Management and the Institute of Economics in Hanoi, and the Thailand Development Research Institute in Bangkok. The Cambodia Development Resource Institute acts as the networks coordinator. The DAN is in its fourth year of collaboration and has already published two other joint studies: the Impact of the Asian Financial Crisis on the Southeast Asian Transitional Economies (1999) and Labour Markets in Transitional Economies in Southeast Asia and Thailand (2001).

We sincerely hope that this publication will provide insights on the potential of off-farm and non-farm activities and provide useful information to policy makers and academics alike.