COVID-19 pandemic accelerates the aging of the population
By 2031, 28 per cent of Thailand’s population will be 60 years old and over. Economic difficulties discourage young people from having children. The government is offering free infertility treatment, but no one believes it will really curb the country’s demographic decline.
Bangkok (AsiaNews) – The pandemic has accelerated the aging of the Thai population; by 2031 Thais aged 60 and over will represent 28 per cent of the total, up from 20 per cent at present.
The government will have to take this into account in any economic recovery plan, which will be less export-oriented, and the development of welfare policy for its 70 million people.
The health crisis has simply brought forward and highlighted already existing problems. Thai families struggle to find jobs and provide care for older family members, most of whom lack adequate financial resources and access to free health care.
In 2021, the number of deaths was higher than that of births (563,650 against 544,570); without urgent and major actions, the situation might be close to point of no return.
Labour force shortages and a larger retired or inactive population risk undermining government plans, already affected by the pandemic.
These and other factors are shaping Thai demography and discouraging young people from having children.
For Pramote Prasartkul, an expert in population dynamics and senior advisor at the Institute for Population and Social Research at Mahidol University in Bangkok, this will be the equivalent of a tsunami.
Speaking to the Bangkok Post newspaper, he noted that the number of births dropped from over a million a year in the 1963-1983 period. At the time, the government took steps to reduce the birth rate, which was growing at 3.5 per cent, and provide access to retirement benefits.
Recent plans to boost the birth rate have not been successful and few believe in the effectiveness of the latest proposal (November 2021) by the National Health Security Office board to provide free infertility treatments to those who request it, but not for surrogacy.