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Quantitative Vulnerability Assessment for Economic Systems

Vulnerability and the Process of Recovery for Households and Companies in Phang-Nga and Phuket Provinces in Thailand

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Philipp Willroth

In 2004 tsunami waves caused huge economic losses along the coastline of Southern Thailand. These resulted from direct damages and the following economic downturn. This study investigates the factors that led to this vulnerable situation. One of the greatest challenges in vulnerability research is the quantification. To answer this question, a wide database has been used, encompassing highly accurate remote sensing data, quantitative surveys and qualitative focus group discussion data. These data have been integrated in a structural equation model to reproduce factors and relations leading to the hazard induced effects and the capabilities to cope with. The model showed that the impact was almost completely compensated for by households’ and companies’ internal and external resilience capabilities.

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1. Introduction

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1.1 Background of research and research objectives Safety is considered one of the most basic needs in human life according to Maslow’s theory of human motivation (MASLOW 1970). This requirement must be fulfilled in order to develop further human activities and desires. A lack of information and knowledge, but also technological progress, might lead to deci- sions and strategies with risks that are often unforeseeable, but which are ac- cepted in order to achieve individual or collective goals. Due to the advance of technological achievements and the possibility of externalising the outcomes of a risky strategy, or at least the risks unintentionally taken, more and more indi- viduals, companies or nations are taking risks which might be classified in their appraisal as acceptable or tolerable. Therefore, Beck argues that we are living in a ‘world risk society’, where local hazards and risks span out to a worldwide scale due to the globalised interrelations in economic systems (BECK 2009:13). To deal with this uncertainty, risk assessment and management is becoming more and more important in scientific and public dispute (RENN 2008). Apprais- al of risk depends on a variety of factors determined by human perception, live- lihood characteristics and regional settings. Observing only the technical charac- teristics of natural hazards would not do justice to the complexity of the socio- economic sphere. Arising from research on poverty, access to entitlements and sustainability, the concept of vulnerability integrates the capacity of the econom- ic sphere to cope with the consequences of...

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