Bali Plans To Send Begpackers Back To Their Embassies
The ‘gap yah’ student travelling around Thailand on daddy’s coin is still going strong, with privileged Western kids donning their brightly patterned backpacks year after year.
It’s a humorous yet frustrating stereotype when viewed alongside the many young people who are forced to scrimp and save their way through university, and highlights a much more worrying ‘gap’ indeed.
However, more concerning than this is the rise of the ‘begpacker’, a traveller who will beg for money alongside genuinely impoverished people in countries such as Thailand and Bali. Unlike genuine beggars, driven by desperation, begpackers request cash to keep travelling.
I do not of course have to spell out how inappropriate this trend is, with the naivete of such individuals illustrated perfectly by all too predictable statistics.
Research conducted by non-profit trade association, The American Gap Association in 2014-15, reveals 61 per cent of gap year participants reported their family’s annual household income to exceed $100,000 (£79,300).
Over 80 per cent of US gap year students had parents had been educated to bachelor’s degree level or higher. The vast majority were found to be white.
There are similar markers of privilege among Brits who head out to ‘find themselves’ in developing countries. According to a research report from the Department of Education, gap year students are more likely to be from ‘white or native English speaking backgrounds’, with ‘families of higher socio-economic status’.
They will also have had ‘a substantially higher propensity to attend an independent school’, and will be more likely to go on to attend elite universities.
For such people, begging on the streets for donations and handouts will no doubt one day make for a fun, ‘edgy’ anecdote once back in the comfort and safety of an English pub. Those begging alongside them to feed their children are not so fortunate.
On the other side of the coin, those forced to beg on the streets of popular backpackers destinations Bali and Thailand will have received a starkly different upbringing.
According to statistics from The Garden of Life Foundation, the poverty rate in Bali is just above 35 per cent, with the minimum wage at an approximate US $125.00 (£99.00).
The poverty rate in Thailand has been declining significantly in recent decades, according to The Borgen Project, dropping from 67 per cent in 1986 to 10.5 per cent in 2017.
However, there are still serious issues with begging in Thailand, with ongoing problems with children being trafficked from neighbouring Burma, Laos or Cambodia before being forced to beg on the streets.
The Bali immigration department has now cracked down on begpackers, reporting them to their respective embassies.
As reported by Detik News, Setyo Budiwardoyo from the immigration department has made the following statement:
We have seen many cases of problematic tourists, lately they are either Australian, British or Russian. We tend to report these cases to the relevant embassies, so that they can oversee their citizens who are on holiday.
In the past, the department helped begpackers by providing them with food and shelter. However, as time went by, they became sceptical because some of foreigners taking advantage of this assistance.
Thailand has taken stricter measures to clamp down on begpackers, with visitors now having to prove they have US $651.00 (£515.50) in cash before entering the country.
Hopefully these respective crackdowns will push begpackers to pursue more ethical ways of funding their journeys of enlightenment.
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CreditsAmerican Gap Association and 4 others
American Gap Association
Department of Education
The Garden Of Life Foundation
The Borgen Project