BANGKOK, Oct. 22 (Xinhua) -- Thailand's central bank on Thursday said that the country's household debt levels, already at the highest in 17 years, are expected to deepen further, triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic that crippled the tourism and export sectors.
"The pandemic had slashed jobs, reducing households' income and debt servicing ability," said Bank of Thailand (BoT)'s governor Sethaput Suthiwartnarueput.
"The employment situation has not yet returned to normal," the governor said, adding that the Thai economy will not return to the pre-COVID levels until the third quarter of 2022.
The BoT earlier forecasted that the economy suffered its biggest contraction in 22 years in the second quarter and could shrink a record 7.8 percent this year.
According to the BoT, as of June, household debt rose to 13.6 trillion baht (434.1 billion U.S. dollars), equivalent to 83.8 percent of GDP, the highest since 2003 and among the highest levels in Asia.
The debt was at 79.9 percent of GDP at the end of 2019.
Earlier, the Federation of Thai Industries had estimated job losses at a record 2.5 to three million this year, of which more than a million are in the tourist sector.
Thailand has a workforce of about 38 million. Enditem