Search The Republic’s Blog

Get It On Doug’s World: Updates By Email

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner


Number Of Foreigners Living In Thailand


In Thailand, foreigners certainly differ from the locals. On the whole, they're older, fatter, drunker, richer, and male

“Thailand is unique among Asian nations.  Individually, the country brings in a sizeable influx of foreigners from more affluent nations through the informal Three I policy of impregnation-integration-investment.  Here’s how it works.  The foreigner, usually male, Impregnates a Thai female, then wishes to Integrate himself into the laid back Thai living environment by Investing in a bar or restaurant.”  Doug Knell, Doug’s Republic

Men, usually older ones, find it easy to score here.  Indeed, you could be mentally retarded and be born without a nose and still be able to pass on your DNA in the Kingdom.  The easier lifestyle encourages them to stay, and a bar/restaurant is the simplest way, they deem, to fund the laid back lifestyle.

The Three I segment forms a more sizeable group than it would in the majority of other nations, but not all foreigners living in the Kingdom are older males and impregnation pros.  Some are entrepreneurs, others English teachers, others expats working for multinationals, and still others on retirement visas with spouses they met while still in their homelands.

So how many foreigners actually live in Thailand on a full-time basis? These figures are almost impossible to come by. Thai Immigration isn’t secretive about the number of foreign tourist arrivals each year, and the Tourism of Thailand regularly publishes these figures. But what those figures don’t tell you, on their own, is:

[Click the picture to read the rest of this fantastic article, okay?]

Categories : Thailand



I was trying to get this number for quite some time and in deed there is no single source. Very good stuff, you could probably argue some of the assumption but overall the best estimate I have came across so far!


Ummmm…you may want to change your description “Whites (70,000 to 140,000)” to something more general like “Westerners”. As described, you are leaving out demographic minorities of “Western” countries who take up permanent residence in the Kingdom. I would guesstimate (with no empirical evidence whatsoever), they would comprise a respectable percentage of those you currently describe only as being “White”. In my own broad circle of friends and acquaintances, I would say at least 10-20% of your number.


Infomuffin, I believe what you’re saying is that 10-20% of the Westerners resident in the Kingdom are non-whites — say a Black Briton or a Chinese American? 10-20% seems like an awfully high number, considering that no minority group in a Western country reaches that number. Well, 13.6% of the U.S. population is black, but I don’t see American blacks represented at those percentages over here. Anyway, those stats on the number of whites weren’t mine. They come from Wikipedia and I cast doubt on them immediately. In my own determination of the numbers of a given nationality present in the Kingdom, I didn’t distinguish by demographics. I did mention that the number of Thais present in another country could and will determine the number of that nationality who, in turn, come to Thailand, a large number of those being people of Thai ethnicity who now hold a foreign passport.


A Thai friend of mine, who is a sub-minister of the Thai government, tells me that the government uses the figure of 5 million expats resident in the Kingdom for policy purposes. What is your opinion of this figure?


Your friend’s estimate is exaggerated. In order to reply to your question, I consulted with the Thailand Migration Report from 2011 published by the International Organization of Migration (IOM) located on Sathorn Road in Bangkok. Their figures largely hail from 2010, but that’s fine, because the numbers in my chart were also calculated using 2010 data and assumptions. According to IOM, there are more than 3.5m persons without Thai nationality living in the country. 3m of those are working here. Now it’s possible that since 2010, this 3.5m figure mushroomed into 5m, but it’s unlikely.

It also depends on how you define “expat.” We typically don’t use the word expat to define a worker journeying abroad for an unspecified period of time for low-skilled work. Would you call a Mexican working in the fields of Texas an expat? Expats are thought of as people relocating to a country fulltime for a significant amount of time. They don’t necessary even have to be working there. Would you call a Brit staying in Hua Hin for three months every winter an expat? Probably not. He’d be a vacationing retiree or just a long term tourist. But if that Brit lived here 8 months out of the year as a retiree, yes, I think expat is a fair way to categorize him.

As of 2009, there were 100,338 foreigners in Thailand with work permits and 6,148 diplomats and officials. These 106,486 people and their dependents are in Thailand fultime for a significant period of time. They qualify as expats. If you wanted, you could include students in higher education (19,052). I wouldn’t classify them as expats myself, but as the foreign students they are. There are 65,558 people who overstayed their visas. Expats? Not likely. Just tourists who enjoyed themselves too much or migrant laborers not wishing to return home.

On my list from 2010, I estimated that 60,000 Japanese were living in Thailand, taking the #1 spot. Of the 100,338 professionals with work permits, Japan tops that list, too, with 23,060. This work permit number squares roughtly with my estimate of residing Japanese, if you assume the average Japanese family unit consists of three people. Some Japanese permit holders come without children, some alone, and some with two kids, so using a ratio of 2.5-3:1 per permit holder isn’t farfetched. China, India, the Philippines, the UK, and the USA hold between 6,500-8,000 work permits per nationality.

I think Westerners are more likely to come to Thailand as expats off the books as compared to more affluent Asians who do things by the book. Let’s say Brits hold 7,500 work permits. I estimated there were 55,000 Brits in Thailand. If we use the same 2.5-3:1 ratio as we did for the Japanese, about 22,000 of those Brits are here legally. The rest are here as retirees or on disguised visas, like a bogus education visa, when they actually live here. Ditto for the other Europeans. The high number of Koreans were cited because of the growing Korean market and the fact Koreans tend to snowball to areas where other Koreans are already living or visiting. If we guess that just 3,000 are here with legal permits (= around 10,000 people with dependents), the remainder would be here operating their own businesses or working in joint Thai-Korean factories.

A 2.5-3 ratio applied to the total number of work permit holders yields about 250,000 to 300,000 expats. Add in another 100,000-200,000 if you want to cover those here off the book on perpetual tourist visas, long term retirees, and the like. You’re looking, at the end of the day, at just 350,000-450,000 expats in the Kingdom.

The bulk of the foriegners in Thailand are low- and semi-skilled workers, both registered and illegal; community migrants; and refugees. The lion’s share of these groups come from just three nations: Cambodia. Laos, and Myanmar. Myanmar has been sending migrants en masse since 1984. The majority of low-skilled migrant workers are from Laos. This group, according to IOM, consists of at least 2.5m people. Add in refugees, students, and the rest, and you’re closer to 3m. None of these are what you think of as expats.

If we use the 450,000 figure as the expat total and a Thailand population total of 66.79m, expats comprise just 0.67% of the population. Not so hard to believe really. Outside Bangkok, Pattaya/Chonburi, Chiang Mai, Hua Hin, and some Thai tourist islands, there aren’t many expats at all living in Thailand.

Who The Hell Is Visiting The Republic