Why is it that Pattaya’s “bar girl industry” is obviously in a deep crisis these days; there are less and less ladies working in the bars; GoGo bars have to import coyote dancers from Bangkok; the available “girls” appear to be getting “old and fat” and rather play with their smartphones than chat with a lonesome punter? Ironically, prices for sexual services are continuously rising at the same time, all translating into harder times for Pattaya’s “traditional sex tourists”. The answer is fairly simple.
To say it with Bob Dylan: “The Times They Are a-Changin”. Continuously decreasing fertility rates, higher wages and growing purchasing power of Thai people, simply mean there are less “needy” young women available for the bar industry these days. Working as a bar girl is definitely no longer a “dream job” for young Thai women. And those who are still willing to do the job, whether they like it or not, will obviously ask for more money.
Here’s a brief analysis of the current state of Thailand’s bar girl industry and an outlook many readers will likely find frustrating. It’s based on an excellent guest post from 2012 at the StickmanBangkok website, where we’d also like to urge you to read the whole piece …
Where Have All the Bar Girls Gone?
Have you, too, sometimes wondered why many bar girls these days, presumably not only in Pattaya, seem to show less interest in you (and perhaps even your money) than just a few years ago, and some might even completely reject you?
Why is it that ladies in most bars these days appear to be “old and fat” while rates for their company (a.k.a. sexual services) have been skyrocketing? or why many girls have developed some kind of “short time mentality” and are less interested in long-time customers and staying overnight, when at the same time that good old “take care attitude” bar girls in Pattaya used to be famous for is apparently on the wane?
Why are the bar girls of the “new breed” begging for more and more overpriced lady drinks and then demand ridiculous money for less than mediocre performances between the sheets, when they often won’t even half-heartedly chat with you and virtually take flight from your hotel room a second after you’ve ejaculated?
Finally, why are more and more bar owners moaning about how hard it has become in recent years to find suitable young women to work in a bar? How can it be that legions of pretty young Thai girls prefer to waste their talent in a factory on the outskirts of Bangkok rather than flock to Pattaya and “sell pussy” to wealthy Westerners? Once upon a time, not so long ago, weren’t we Farangs their presumed “saviours”?
Like it or not – dry fundamental demographic and economic changes are ultimately responsible for this “general decline in the foreign [sex] tourist experience”, or so at least according to an excellent guest post at the StickmanBangkok website ironically titled Thailand’s Doomsday Approaches, in which the author provides a painstaking analysis of the “fundamental quantitative change that is happening in Thailand” these days and is a direct threat to Pattaya’s old-established “bar girl industry”.
According to his analysis, simple demographic and economic factors help explain why, in 2012, you would likely find more “bad attitudes, expensive short times, rising lady drink costs” etc. in the bars of Bangkok and Pattaya than just a decade ago. Needless to say that his findings still apply, or only even more so, now that you’re reading this page.
QBert – that’s the pseudonym of the author – rightly points out that “Thailand is undergoing rapid demographic and economic transitions which threaten to lift a significant portion of its population out of destitution and at the same time radically decrease the number of available 18-29 year old females. A country needs two things if it is to have a healthy bargirl industry, namely poverty and young women, and it looks like Thailand is about to run out of both.”
In other words, decreasing fertility rates resulting in an aging society with less young women available for the “bar girl market” and, on the other hand, a robust economy, growing purchasing and bargaining power of the available young women … well, you likely get the picture.
The Demographic Factor
It’s simple: Less baby girls born 20 years ago = less 20-year-old women (and potential bar girls) today. Due to the country’s changing demographics and decreasing fertility rate (down from 6.0 in 1960 to just 1.66 in 2012), Thailand simply has fewer young women these days that would want to work in a bar (or feel forced to do so by economic pressure), and accordingly more older than young women. Here are some demographic facts cited by Qbert:
- “1980’s Thailand was full of young girls in need of employment and relatively free of older Thai men to marry them. This meant that the bars had less trouble recruiting and could afford to be more picky with regards to the girls’ appearance, attitudes, wages, etc. Now, in 2012, the girls are fewer and the eligible Thai bachelors more numerous.”
- “In 1990 the largest population group was 10-14 year-olds … Younger women outnumbered older men by a good 20%.”
- “In 2000 the 10-14 year olds had become 20-24 year olds. There were plenty of women [and] young women [still] outnumbered older men”; which explains why just a decade ago there were still so much more young Thai women ready to work in a bar.
- “In 2010 the young girls of 1990 have become women in their 30’s, and hence not as appealing. There are more older women than young women. Even worse, women in the 20-24 year old demographic are outnumbered by both 25-29 and 30-34 year old men.” And let’s face it, most Thai women would naturally prefer to have a Thai boyfriend or husband rather than stay with a foreigner who does not even speak their language or understand their culture. In the past, with higher fertility rates (and an “oversupply” of young girls), there simply weren’t enough Thai bachelors available.
The author, who underlines his analysis with numerous graphs, argues that sequentially it’s “no wonder the bargirls are getting fat, bars are being forced to scrape the bottom of the barrel.” Qbert’s bleak prediction that this is a trend that “due to Thailand’s demographic realities is only going to get worse”, isn’t just pessimistic – it’s a sober assessment.
The Economic Factor
Another important factor is the growing purchasing power of the Thai people due to increasing wages, particularly also in Thailand’s northeastern Isaan region where most bar girls hail from, and the resulting growing bargaining power of bar girls. Qbert correctly points out that since Thailand has become a “middle income country … it costs a lot more to entice an honest lady to wickedness” than it did in the early days of (sex) tourism or even only a decade ago.
“Her opportunity cost is higher, hence she will demand higher short-time fees …”
Qbert explains: “One of the reasons why bargirls in Thailand have traditionally been affordable is because the opportunity cost of spending time with horny men was low … Economists call the mainstream economy wages that a Thai bargirl gives up by working at a bar her opportunity cost. When Thailand was a poor country with a US$1,000 per capita income, giving up [for example] a secretary’s wage was no great sacrifice, hence it didn’t cost much to persuade a girl to spend her time with handsome men in Bangkok’s nightlife.”
Since Thailand has become a middle income country, and even factory girls and cashiers at 7-Eleven stores can fetch a decent salary, these “handsome men” (sic) will now obviously have to pay more for the company of their desired lady.
It’s a matter of fact that young Thai women enter the bar girl industry purely for economic reasons. If it wasn’t for the opportunity to make more money as a bar girl than in the country’s mainstream economy, all these sexy young girls would never come to Pattaya and “sell pussy” in the first place.
In light of the 2013 increase of the daily minimum wage to 300 Baht a day nationwide – and in spite of persistent political conflicts – this is also a trend which is likely to continue. Thailand is simply no longer a third world country. And yes, this is good so.
Other Factors – New Markets, Dating Sites …
From the point of view of a foreign visitor, a notoriously strong Thai Baht and weak foreign exchange rates, the Eurozone Crisis etc. certainly only aggravate these “inconveniences” which Thailand’s economic growth has brought about for middle-income Western (sex) tourists with rather limited budgets.
It certainly hasn’t helped either that Thailand simply isn’t as cheap anymore as it was only a decade ago.
And in the case of Pattaya in particular, with its rapidly changing tourist profile, it’s surely not an incentive for potential bar girls either that more and more positive non-sex tourists (i.e. couples and families) and low-budget sex tourists from Russia, India etc. have “invaded” a city which not so long ago used to be the favourite adventure playground for well-to-do single Western males. Instead of seeking a bar job in Pattaya, many would-be bar girls will simply opt for Phuket or other destinations that continue to draw bountiful Farangs …
In return (and that’s another facet of Thailand’s changing “sex industry” which is only little visible in Pattaya), many girls have realigned themselves to new markets of “high-end sex tourists”, e.g. the ever-growing number of Japanese expats and businessmen in Bangkok, who are known to spend quite a bit on ladies every night and also have a reputation for being less “demanding” than their Western counterparts.
To quote a Facebook source of ours who is more familiar with this scene, now “there’s plenty of quite stunning, slim, stylish, and ambitious young females around [in Bangkok] but they have upgraded themselves [to] a much higher-spending class of customer in the person of the Expat Japanese male who has a minimum of ten thousands Baht in his pocket to spend each and every night. They’ve abandoned the low-end dives and are putting in their time at the hundreds of newly established” venues around Bangkok catering mainly to the Japanese market “where the girls are averaging 100,000 Baht per month.”
Now think about it: Given the opportunity to make massive money with “high-end sex tourists”, why would a young and attractive Thai girl waste her time with an old fat Farang in Pattaya who’s constantly moaning about the “crappy” exchange rates and how “expensive” life in Thailand has become? Bar girls will naturally follow the call of money – easy money.
To add insult to injury: As a male Western/Caucasian reader you might not like the following; but it can hardly be denied that Farang men (i.e. white-skinned men of European ancestry) are also somewhat “out” these days and less “desired” by Thai females than just a decade ago. Thanks to the massive popularity of K-Pop and J-Pop and the relative “cultural proximity” between Thailand and East Asian countries, many young Thai women these days, especially the white-skinned cuties who (think they) can afford to be more picky than their dark-skinned consexuals in Isaan, would certainly rather date a smart young Japanese or Korean guy than a pot-bellied European pisshead waiting for his luck in a beer boozer in Pattaya. Like it or not.
Another reason not to be ignored why less Thai women looking for a foreign acquaintance these days (out of the fewer young Thai women available anyway) choose to work in a bar, is obviously the role of the Internet and the emergence of social networking and dating sites.
A decade ago, dating sites like, for example, Thai Friendly hardly played a role in facilitating relationships between Farangs and Thai ladies; now tens of thousands of Thai women of all age groups and from all parts of the country are registered users on such sites.
With Thai women being more internet-savvy and familiar with dating and social networking sites, many girls who either genuinely look for a foreign spouse or just seek a casual “paid sex partner”, will now often resort to using dating sites to find that special occasional “sponsor” instead of working in a bar and outright prostituting themselves – a job which usually comes with extreme social stigma. These girls will meet their “boyfriends” at the airport or their hometowns in the countryside, not in a bar or nightclub in Pattaya.
By the way, decreasing fertility rates and relatively more new-born males in Thailand certainly also help explain the phenomenon of an ever-growing number of ladyboys working in the local flesh trade. Buddha only knows why so many young Thai males feel as though they were born in the “wrong body” and need to undertake some “gender reassignment”. Fact is they do.
As a result, it’s a simple equation: more young Thai men = more ladyboys. This is also a trend likely to continue.
Last but not least: While due to ever-decreasing fertility rates there are simply less young Thai women aged 20-29 available for the “bar girl industry” these days, there shouldn’t be a severe shortage of “older birds” who seek a job in a bar anytime soon. There’s a cultural reason so-to-say for this.
In Thailand, a woman older than, say, 35 is traditionally deemed an “old lady” by society; most women in that age group have at least one or two kids and often look back on a failed marriage or long-term relationship with a Thai partner. Such women have often only been housewives, and when economic pressure forces them to seek a job and earn money at this age (e.g. because their husband has left them alone with the kids, they have debts that need to be repaid, or their parents are ill and need medical care) they often have no other option than work as a “bar girl” in Thailand’s nightlife industry.
Why? Because at the age of 35 or older, potential employers in the “mainstream economy” will usually consider them “too old” to work, i.e. even in a factory, restaurant or supermarket. And as most Thai men traditionally also deem women in their mid-30s “old ladies”, they will naturally also find it harder than a 25-year-old to find a new partner among the available Thai bachelors.
As a result, women in this age group who urgently need to make money and find a job (or a new partner who can support them financially) will often have no other choice than take a bus to Pattaya and seek a job in a bar; which is another reason why there are relatively more “older” girls aged 30+ than younger women working in Thailand’s sex industry these days. They simply have less opportunities than women in their early 20’s.
Having said that, with less 20-year-olds available for the “bar girl industry” these days, in 10-20 years there will obviously also be less 30-40-year-olds available for the “meat market”. So unless the fertility rate increases again soon, the outlook for Thailand’s crippled “bar girl industry” isn’t just extremely bleak for the short term but even more so in the long run …
Enough said. Now go and read the whole piece at StickmanBangkok.com yourself. Essential reading (though perhaps a bit frustrating and disenchanting) not only for “sex tourists” and bar owners struggling to find attractive staff, but also for those with a more profound interest in the country. As Stickman put it correctly in his comment: “Of course some will be disappointed but for those who genuinely hope to see Thailand develop and Thai people enjoy a higher standard of living, surely fewer women entering the industry is a good thing.” With a tear in one eye and a smile in the other, we can’t help but fully agree.