Thailand’s plunging birth rate a ticking demographic time bomb – UCA News

Archbishop Jerome Lloyd OSJVPosted by

The Buddhist-majority country posted a record low birth rate last year

Thailand’s plunging birth rate a ticking demographic time bomb – UCA News
Thailand's plunging birth rate a ticking demographic time bomb

Newborn babies dressed as chicks to mark the Year of the Rooster sleep at Paolo Memorial Hospital in Bangkok on January 27, 2017. (Photo by LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA / AFP)

Thailand’s plummeting birth rate is a ticking demographic time bomb, experts have warned.

Last year the Buddhist-majority country, a nation of 69 million citizens, registered a record low birth rate of just below 545,000 newborns, a figure lower than the number of deaths that year, which was 563,650, according to data by the National Statistical Office.

By comparison, until the mid-1990s, there were between 900,000 and 1 million births, but then the rate began to decline.

Donate to UCA News with a small contribution of your choice

By now the birth rate in the country has declined to 1.2 child per woman, well below the replacement level of 2.1, from a one-time high of 5.1, experts say.

Although the country’s birth rate has been shrinking for years, the latest figures indicate that Thailand, which has one of the region’s most robust economies, is already facing chronic labor shortages and the social repercussions of an aging society.

Experts say that a reason for the increasingly low birth rates in Thailand has been relative prosperity and upward mobility, a trend that has caused many women to pursue their careers and delay having children.

Many young Thai women prefer not to have any children until they are in their 30s and even then, only one or two offspring.

“I’d love to have my own children, but it’s not easy to do that when you work all day long in an office and you have little time left for anything else,” Suwisa Anurak, 36, a manager working in communications in Bangkok, told UCA News.

“I think many women are in a similar situation. My older sister has a six-year-old daughter, but my younger sister [who is 31] is childless like me,” Suwisa added.

Within a decade, experts say, 28 percent of Thailand’s population will be 60 or older and as the country’s birth rate is already well below replacement level its population will continue to shrink in line with similar trends taking place in developed nations such as Italy and Japan.

Already a fifth of the Thai population is elderly, which means that Thailand can officially be classified as an aging society.

“We call [this trend] a population ‘tsunami.’ It is a powerful wave that will have tremendous impacts,” said Pramote Prasartkul, a professor of demographics at the Institute for Population and Social Research at Mahidol University in Bangkok.

“More than one million [people] who were born in 1963 are entering retirement age next year,” he added.

Back in 1963, when those 1 million babies were born, Thailand’s population was just 30 million, or less than half of what it is currently.

Ironically, it was government-sponsored family planning plans during that period of high birth rates that began to lead to fewer and fewer births over time.

By 2020, the number of newborns was below 600,000 for the first time and the following year it fell to 580,000. Last year, probably because of the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, it reached a record low of 544,570.

“Nurseries, schools and universities will be affected and there will be a shrinkage of the labor force, [especially] in the farming and industrial sectors,” Prof. Pramote said.

Already as many as 5 million migrant workers, primarily from Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos, are employed in Thailand to make up for domestic labor shortages.

“Investments in public infrastructure projects designed to cater to large numbers will become a waste,” Pramote added. “More importantly, we’re losing human resources.”

Leave a Reply