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Southeast Asia gives cash to low-wage workers as jobs evaporate

Governments worry about unrest among vast, vulnerable workforce

A food stand in Bangkok: Street vendors, rickshaw drivers and construction employees are among Southeast Asia's informal workers who lack job security.   © Reuters

BANGKOK -- With the coronavirus bringing economic activity to a standstill, Southeast Asian countries are extending cash and other assistance to workers most vulnerable to job losses and financial difficulties.

Thailand's cabinet on Tuesday approved monthly assistance of 5,000 baht ($153) for 9 million informal workers, lasting six months. The government initially planned a three-month program for 3 million people, but expanded the scope after receiving a flood of applications. The scheme is now expected to cost 270 billion baht, or roughly $8.25 billion.

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