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SEAC Seminar: Urban informality at crossroad?

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SEAC Seminar Series: Urban informality at crossroad? Dynamics between inclusion and exclusion in Bangkok

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SEAC is hosting a research seminar chaired by SEAC Director Prof. Hyun Bang Shin on 31st March 2021. Dr Tamaki Endo, SEAC Visiting Senior Fellow (Associate Professor in Development Economics, Saitama University, Japan), will speak on "Urban informality at crossroad? Dynamics between inclusion and exclusion in Bangkok".

Talk abstract

With rapid economic development, Bangkok and BMR (Bangkok Mega Region) have become global hubs of production, finance and consumption, attracting the global investors and emerging upper class, but at the same time, exhibiting the continuous expansion of the informal economy and settlements.

This paper analyzes the recent complex dynamics of exclusion and inclusion of ‘informality’ of the city. Due to the fact that majority of labour force in Thailand is still in the informal employment, there has been policy shift to expand social security coverage, especially for the self-employed. It can be said that these are the attempts to include informal economy workers into the formal mechanisms. However, if we look at actual urban governance and urban redevelopment projects led by private sectors, the spaces for informality are rapidly eroded and sometime forcedly pushed out by evicting vendors, fresh markets and slum communities. Middle class join the campaign of ‘city beautification’ through SNS and support this harsh attitude towards urban informality.

The urban economy can not be sustained without labour of lower class and they are surely one of the contributors for macro economy. However, ‘informality’ which has been the source of alternative mechanism for their survival, because of the lack of formal institutional supports, is now under threat. This might cause the destructions of social networks, limitation of the resource allocations for urban lower class and therefore create another social conflict among social classes. Finding balance between interests of multiple actors in urban redevelopment and governance will be key for better well-being of residents and make city livable.

Speaker and Chair biographies

  • Dr Tamaki Endo is an Associate Professor at Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Saitama University in Japan. Her research interests include informal economy, inequality, urban risk management and global value chain analysis. The current research projects are ‘Informalizing Asia: Dynamics and dilemma of global mega cities’, ‘Flood risk and resilience in mega cities: The case of Thailand and Myanmar’, and ‘The Well-Being of Asian Cities’. Main publications are Living with Risks: Precarity & Bangkok’s Urban Poor (NUS Press association with Kyoto University Press, 2014), The Asian Economy: Contemporary Issues and Challenges (Goto, Endo and Ito [eds], Routledge, 2020). She received her B.A. in Law and Politics from Faculty of Law (1999), and her M.A. (2001) and PhD (2007) in Economics from Graduate School of Economics, Kyoto University.
  • Prof. Hyun Bang Shin is Professor of Geography and Urban Studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science and directs the LSE Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre. His research centres on the critical analysis of the political economy of speculative urbanisation, gentrification and displacement, urban spectacles, and urbanism with particular attention to Asian cities. His books include Planetary Gentrification (Polity, 2016), Neoliberal Urbanism, Contested Cities and Housing in Asia (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019), Exporting Urban Korea? Reconsidering the Korean Urban Development Experience (Routledge, 2021), and The Political Economy of Mega Projects in Asia: Globalization and Urban Transformation (Routledge, forthcoming). He is Editor of the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, and is also a trustee of the Urban Studies Foundation.

* Banner image is from Flick by Vidar Stensen (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

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