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Master of Agribusiness

From Rice Fields to Red Light Districts: An Economic Examination of Factors Motivating Employment in Thailand’s Sex Industry

Cori Wittman, Bangkok, Thailand, defended her thesis, “From Rice Fields to Red Light Districts: An Economic Examination of Factors Motivating Employment in Thailand’s Sex Industry,” on November 15, 2011.  She graduated from Kansas State University in December 2011 with a Master of Agribusiness (MAB) degree. 

Migration of individuals from rural to urban areas is common worldwide. It is no different in Thailand, where women in particular, leave rural communities for urban areas to improve their economic status. Lacking economically competitive alternatives, many seek employment in the sex industry to support their families.

Wittman’s Master of Agribusiness thesis researched the socio-economic factors that influence rural women’s participation in Thailand’s sex industry. 

“Widespread participation in Thailand’s sex industry is a complex and dynamic challenge that creates a whole host of social and economic challenges for the country,” Wittman said. “By understanding factors differentiating women that enter the sex industry and those that have successfully found alternative employment, efforts can be directed toward developing real solutions to the challenge."

Many women were introduced to the industry by family and friends after economic pressures forced them to provide for their families. Most have a limited education and little opportunity for skilled employment. Though increasing the educational opportunities of women in Thailand may improve their economic situation, a more holistic approach to development including consideration of family structures and creation of rural jobs must be taken into account in order to see real change.

Vincent Amanor-Boadu, Associate Professor of Agricultural Economics and Wittman’s thesis advisor, said, “This study provides the foundation for further research on how to enhance human capacity and create viable and competitive alternatives for these women.  The futility of ongoing policies arises from the poor appreciation of the forces that create the environment and an understanding of their effects on people’s decisions."

K-State’s Master of Agribusiness (www.mab.ksu.edu) is an award-winning, distance-education degree program that focuses on food and agribusiness management. Students and alumni work in every sector of the food and agribusiness sector and are located in 40 states within the United States and in 25 countries. 

The full thesis publication can be found online on K-State’s Research Exchange at http://hdl.handle.net/2097/13109.