Dr. Tamaki Endo


Urban Development and Expansion in Southeast Asia

How to survive in the cities of the globalization era.
– Changing urban dynamism with complexity –

The 21st century is said to be the “Asian Century”, and at the same time, the “Urban Century”. In 2008, the urban population exceeded 50% of the global population (or approximately 3.3 billion). It is said that the world’s urban population will expand to approximately 5 billion by 2030 and 80% of which will be concentrated in the cities of developing countries and middle income countries. The majority of the increasing urban population in these countries are deemed to belong to the poor. How can these people survive in the cities? Will it be possible to ensure decent housing and to secure occupations? These issues will become more crucial in the future.

I have been researching mainly Thailand as a field until now. Bearing in mind that theories, policies and actual conditions are entangled, I am analyzing urban development and changing dynamism for macro-analysis, transition and performance of urban poverty policies. However, the actual working and living conditions of the urban poor are not fully contained in the official statistics, and therefore, field works are essential. I have been conducting long-term field works that focus mainly on occupations and residences of the urban lower class communities in Bangkok. Under the circumstances where the social security system is insufficient, I clarified, from the standpoint of the local people, how the risk response process of the people take place, which reorganization of stratification within community follows, and, community function to absorb the impacts from risks. Amid the interaction among individuals, households, community and society (including policies), I would like to feature the changing urban dynamism with complexity.

Research process

  1. Start point of research
    Began with an interest in “Informal economy,” in which people work as vendors, as a bike taxi driver, or as a garbage collector.
    [Theoretical assumption (development economics)]
    It is assumed that the informal economy will disappear if development advances.
    Despite the economic growth and development, the informal economy was expanding in many developing and middle income countries. However, macro statistics failed to capture actual number or scale of these group.
  2. Launch policy analysis
    Since researchers, international institutions and governments are using different definitions in accordance with their policy objectives, I first launched an analysis of policies, such as that supporting the informal economy, and that of urban poverty. Simultaneously, discussions were summarized. The gap between the policy, the theory behind it, and the actual condition became evident.
  3. Long-term field works in Thailand
    A model for developed countries is often not applicable to understand the actual conditions of Southeast Asia. Therefore, I started taking interdisciplinary approach, using both economics and area studies approach. Simultaneously, I stayed in Thailand for two and a half years, learned the Thai language, and conducted a long-term field works.
  4. Turning point of research project
    I encountered an incident that substantially changed my research direction during the research process. The community that was the main investigation site completely burned down, and approximately 8,000 people were burned out. I began paying more attention to the risk response process of people facing various risks in urban life. In 2011, I summarized my findings in my publication “‘Living with the Risks: Risk Response of Urban Low-income Class in Bangkok” (Award: The 28th Masayoshi Ohira Memorial Prize).
  5. Current efforts
    I am conducting joint research on a comparison among Asian cities, the value chain of labor-intensive industry in Asia, and gender and immigrant workers in addition to the research on the informal economy.



Tamaki Endo

Faculty of Economics
Associate Professor, Asian economy, Thai Study
Born on December 19, 1975

1999 Graduated from the Faculty of Law, Kyoto University
2004 Earned credit for doctoral course of Graduate School of Economics, Kyoto University
June 2003 – June 2005 Visiting researcher at Chulalongkorn University Social Research Institute: CUSRI
2004-2007 Research fellow (PD) of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (Center for Southeast Asian Studies, KyotoUniversity)
2007 Obtained a PhD in Economics (Kyoto University).
Researcher in the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University
2008- Current position after being a lecturer at the Faculty of Economics, Saitama University
  • ” Living with the Risks: Risk Response of Urban Low-income Class in Bangkok ” by Tamaki Endo, Kyoto University Press, 2011
  • “Living with Risk: Precarity & Bangkok’s Urban Poor” by Tamaki Endo, NUS Press in association with Kyoto University Press, Feb 2014

    Community that was the main investigation site completely burned down, and approximately 8,000 people were burned out                     Bangkok cityscape

Main research site completely burned down in 2004,                                                Bangkok cityscape
and approximately 8,000 people were burned out                                                                                         

Temporary housing built by themselves

Temporary housing built by residents themselves

        Temporary housing            Community after restoration   

                                          Temporary housing                                                          Community after restoration

      Shoes homeworker          Bike Taxi

                                              Shoes homeworker                                                                  Bike taxi


Living with Risks (Bangkok, Thailand)

The city grows and changes rapidly during globalization. My main field site, the capital of Thailand, Bangkok, is the financial and production centre with a row of high-rise buildings. On the other hand, when you step into an alley, a closely-spaced community extends. The sidewalk in front of a high-rise building is lined with food stalls, and bike taxis are driving through a traffic jam. While white collar foreigners who work for Japanese or Western companies stride along, immigrant workers flow in from neighboring countries such as Myanmar, and work in called 3D sectors of the city.

As the globalization advances, it is important that, instead of step-by step development, ‘compressed change’ is taking place at both developing and middle income countries. It bring about stratified structure of society and contemporary Asia is now facing with many challenges. It has not only specific challenges of developing and middle income countries, but also many challenges in common with Japan, such as an aging population and low birthrate.

The work and life of the urban lower class are vulnerable to various risks. (For example, layoff, fire, disease, accident, etc.) Under the circumstances where the social security system is inadequate, there are people who survive in a city, making full use of the resources available to them. Community is not only a place for habitation, but also functions to absorb risks, as a place for labor, life and consumption. Today, with an advancement of globalization and an increase of uncertainty, it is important that the approach to “poverty” is not static (i.e. whether people have enough money at a certain point of time or not ), but the approach should be dynamic (i.e. how to handle a risk when it is encountered should be addressed). Adding to that we have to aware that disparities within the urban lower classes are also widening and the community is not homogeneous. Today, it is becoming important to mutually share experiences among developing, and middle income and developed countries.

General store in the community                   Tricycle(Tuktuk)      

Grocery shop in the community                     Tricycle(Tuktuk)     

 Community activity (Ceremony for purifying a building site)

 Community activity (Ceremony for purifying a building site)