Thailand’s population is set to plummet. Crisis looms as birth rate drops. Senior minister calls for urgent action as the population is predicted to more than halve by 2074. Workshop to open in Bangkok on March 7th in a call to experts to help find a way to tackle the problem.

Thailand’s Minister for Social Development and Human Security Varawut Silpa-archa has warned that by 2074, Thailand’s population could fall to 30 million. That is less than half its current level. It comes as the country’s population has begun to decline. In addition to a loss of productivity, the lack of younger people has already begun to impact the country’s consumer market and economy. Not to mention the rising cost of caring for a population that is growing more elderly. 

Minister of Social Development and Human Security Varawut Silpa-archa has announced a high-level workshop in Bangkok on March 7th to address the country’s population crisis. It comes as the population has already started to fall.

In response to Thailand’s looming population crisis, Varawut Silpa-archa, Minister of Social Development and Human Security, has announced plans for a workshop on March 7, 2024. 

The workshop aims to address the nation’s dwindling birth rate and ageing population crisis.

It comes with less than 500,000 newborns recorded in recent years.

Population fell by over 500,000 in the last four years according to one source which reported in early February. Ministry just reported a drop of 35,000

Excluding immigration, births in Thailand are now over one hundred thousand less per year than deaths. Figures released in early February 2024 by the Issara news agency showed Thailand’s population declined by over 500,000 in the last four years.

This week, the Thai government conceded that from 2022 to 2023, the decline was 35,000.

Highlighting the urgency of the situation, Minister Varawut on Sunday emphasised that Thailand is on the brink of a seismic shift. 

The nation is becoming a perfect elderly society. Already it has over 13 million people aged 60 or above.

Kingdom stands on the precipice of a population implosion. It comes as the country has failed to transition itself into a high-income, wealthy economy

Thailand is one of the first countries in the world to find itself on the precipice of a population implosion without having developed a wealthy economy and potential support base.

The economic impact has already begun with rising social security costs and falling GDP growth rates.

Social security fund faces bankruptcy in a decade if action is not taken due to the Kingdom’s acute ageing crisis

In contrast, the number of newborns has sharply declined. This poses a significant threat to the country’s future demographics. 

Without intervention, projections suggest that Thailand’s population could plummet to just 30 million within the next five decades.

Workshop to be held in Bangkok on March 7th to bring together experts to address the challenge facing Thailand in the decades ahead says the Minister

This is just based on the current birth rate. Thailand has the second lowest in Southeast Asia just marginally above that of Singapore.

The Minister of Social Development and Human Security Mr Varawut has taken the lead in organising the workshop. It will be themed ‘Improving Thai Family Stability to Combat the Population Crisis.’

It is scheduled to take place at Plenary Hall 1, Queen Sirikit National Convention Center in Bangkok on March 7th. The event aims to bring together stakeholders from various sectors, including government agencies, private enterprises, NGOs, and other relevant organisations.

‘This is not just about encouraging couples to have children. It’s about creating a conducive environment where families feel supported and secure,’ explained Minister Warawut. ‘We need to foster a sense of warmth and stability that encourages people to start families and raise children.’

Preliminary talks with the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI) and the World Bank ahead of the event. Report to be brought to cabinet in April

Preparations for the workshop have been underway since January 12, 2024.

Preliminary discussions have taken place involving experts from the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI) and the World Bank.

The workshop itself will comprise group discussions and brainstorming sessions aimed at generating actionable solutions to address the population crisis.

Following the workshop, the outcomes will be presented at a Cabinet meeting in early April 2024.

Subsequently, the Ministry of Education will compile all relevant information for presentation at a United Nations (UN) meeting later in April. 

Minister Varawut emphasised the importance of international collaboration in tackling population issues. He highlighted Thailand’s proactive stance in addressing this global challenge.

Minister still speaks of ‘a brighter future for Thailand’ and ensuring the well-being of generations to come as the country faces a daunting challenge

‘We invite all stakeholders involved in population-related issues to join us in finding solutions and sharing expertise,’ urged Minister Varawut. ‘By working together, we can create a brighter future for Thailand and ensure the well-being of generations to come.’

The workshop marks a significant step in Thailand’s efforts to address its population crisis.

However, the previous two governments also tried to counter the trend with enhanced social welfare support for women and young families. In short, the efforts have not worked but have helped to somewhat stem the decline in Thailand’s birth rate.

Thailand’s days of GDP growth in excess of 5% may be a thing of the past as it has grown too old
Thailand- the first large country with a fertility problem yet without wealth to easily fund healthcare for the old
Thailand’s new move to boost the birth rate and fight the negative impact of an ageing population

Thailand’s current birth rate is 1.46 (2023) compared to 2.78 for the Philippines which is also declining but well above the population replacement rate which is 2.1 per woman, on average, across the world.

Traditional living patterns in Thailand are under threat from economic demands and imported world trends. Birth rate fell from 6.4 in 1964 to 1.46 in 2023

This new initiative signals a concerted commitment to fostering sustainable demographic growth and family stability. Indeed, societal trends originating in Western countries have begun to put the family unit under threat. 

In short, fewer young people are marrying. This trend has begun in Thailand among an increasingly better-educated population.

A 2018 study from Chulalongkorn University College of Population Studies (CPS) showed a sharp rise in Thai women who are not getting married or having children.

The study showed that 9% of 15 to 49-year-old women remained single. This was up from 3.5% in 2001.

Traditionally, Thailand has had a high rate of women marrying young with 30% from poor households marrying before 18. At this time, nationwide, 23% marry before they reach 18.

In addition, the marriage rate which in 2022 was 305,000 registrations rebounded after a dip during the pandemic.

However, the fall in the birth rate from 6.4 births per woman in 1964 to 1.46 and a projected figure of 1.3 by 2040 is the key problem.

This is linked to women being increasingly incorporated into the workforce.

United Nations policies and decades of consensus on world development outlook are being increasingly questioned because of the emerging population crisis

Certainly, this movement is at the heart of the problem. However, this diagnosis may prove politically incorrect and unpalatable for some global organisations such as the World Bank and the United Nations.

For decades, these organisations have promoted policies such as enhanced birth control and gender equality. Unquestionably, these are key factors are in the falling population numbers worldwide.

In short, there appears to be an emerging dichotomy between raising birth rates and current UN policies. These include social policies and those related to climate change.

Of course, the United Nations would not accept this.

It consistently points to the impact of climate change on food security and its exacerbation international conflict.

In the meantime, countries like Hungary have introduced economic incentives for women to bear children. These policies have been savagely attacked by critics. 

Consequently, the issue of birth rates and fertility has enmeshed itself in right-wing political culture.

Hungary’s story and the weaponisation of the issue in the talking points of Europe’s ‘right wing’ movements must be confronted. Change of course required 

In 2019, Hungary axed income tax for a lifetime in respect of any woman who has four children. Whether acknowledged or not, the issue is a political dividing line.

At a seminar in Budapest, Hungary in September 2023, Italy’s far-right Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni was in no doubt.

‘We live in an era where everything that defines us is under attack,’ the Italian Prime Minister declared. ‘In our view, demography is not just another of the main issues of our nation. It is the issue on which our nation’s future depends.’ 

A United Nations report ‘World Population Policies 2021, Policies related to fertility’ was published in 2021. It noted that 69 countries worldwide in 2019 still had policies to lower fertility rates.

At the same time, 55 had policies to raise them while 15 wanted to maintain a replacement rate.

The report acknowledged that the number seeking higher fertility levels was rising. 

UN and world bodies must incorporate policies to raise fertility levels as well as pursuing climate change and gender equality goals. Otherwise, things look bleak

The solution of course is for the UN and other world bodies finding policies that promote gender equality and climate change while simultaneously seeking to raise fertility rates.

Certainly, Hungary’s income tax concession for mothers appears to do just that despite attitudes towards the country’s leader Viktor Orbán. 

Mr Orbán has made himself unpopular in Brussels and on the left. This is because of his implacable opposition to migration within the European Union. Besides, there is also his autocratic leadership style.

In the meantime, Thailand’s next two decades are already defined by its falling population, shrinking consumer market and less productive workforce.

In addition, the problem is a global phenomenon. Undoubtedly, this will usher in unprecedented changes in society throughout the world in the coming decades.

An older and dysfunctional world is a danger

Certainly, no matter your political beliefs, the impact, at length, will not be positive. In truth, the world seems unprepared for what should have been quite an obvious threat or danger. 

With consumer markets and productivity in decline, a wave of unpredictable consequences has already been unleashed.

This means a rise in immigration towards developed economies, greater economic inequality and a far greater potential for political instability.

Indeed, these trends are already in play in Western economies, across the world and even in Thailand.

As the nation confronts this pressing challenge, collaboration and innovation without politicising the issue will be essential to securing a more prosperous future for Thailand.

Join the Thai News forum, follow Thai Examiner on Facebook here
Receive all our stories as they come out on Telegram here
Follow Thai Examiner here

Further reading:

Thailand in crisis as population declined by over 500k over the last four years according to the latest data

Thailand’s days of GDP growth in excess of 5% may be a thing of the past as it has grown too old

Cabinet in pension move as the number of working Thais to over 60s is set to half in 20 years

Thailand- the first large country with a fertility problem yet without wealth to easily fund healthcare for the old

Inequality has been rising in Thailand since 2015 as the kingdom becomes officially an aged society in 2021

Outlook for the Thai economy is bleak and will get bleaker due to its rapidly ageing population – biggest issue

Thailand’s new move to boost the birth rate and fight the negative impact of an ageing population

Prime Minister welcomes news that Thai economy is the world’s happiest in Bloomberg index for a second year

Denmark and Thailand seek economic partnership and face the same challenge – demographics

Thailand’s new move to boost the birth rate and fight the negative impact of an ageing population

BCG economic and social blueprint over the next 5 years unveiled, promises more money for less

Foreigners in Thailand should find out more about Thailand 4.0 and be part of the change that is coming

Noble spirit of Thailand’s elderly helps country deal with demographic problem